According to the state’s Office of Traffic Safety, Orange County cities have the highest number of alcohol related accidents than any other in the State of California. As an experienced Criminal Defense Attorney practicing in Orange County for 20 years, I have watched Orange County police agencies become more and more aggressive when it comes to driving under the influence. However, despite the thousands of dollars spent each year on DUI checkpoints and police patrols, the numbers continue to climb. Some attribute this to summer beach crowds and the beach bars that service them.
Newport Beach and the city of Orange had the state’s highest rate of crashes involving alcohol, when compared to other California cities their size. Huntington Beach has one of the highest DUI arrest rates in the state for its size. Santa Ana has the third highest rates of among California’s biggest cities, despite twice-a-month DUI checkpoints, with Costa Mesa ranked number 4 of the worst among mid-sized cites.
Because of the high rate of alcohol related driving arrests in Orange County, I have become extremely familiar with the rules, laws and requirements each officer must follow when it comes to DUI arrests. I have consequently become familiar with the mistakes that officers make and/or their lack of knowledge or interest in following the strict guidelines associated with stopping, detaining and arresting someone for DUI.
Police officers must have “reasonable suspicion” to pull over a person. Reasonable suspicion that a crime has been or is about to be committed is all that is necessary. However, having been a DUI Defense Lawyer in Orange County for many years has shown me that most stops are based on probable cause such as simple traffic violations and/or reckless driving. If an officer suspects a person is driving under the influence, but the person has not violated any traffic violation, the police officer must have a “reasonable suspicion” before the driver can be pulled over.
When a police officer pulls someone over and suspects that the driver is intoxicated or under the influence, the officer may then administer field sobriety tests. What most people don’t know is that the roadside, hand-held breathalyzer, the Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) test is considered a field sobriety test and is used to assist the officer in deciding whether or not to arrest the driver for DUI. It is not required that anyone submit to this roadside PAS tests and therefore may be refused without consequences. If however, the officer determines that the driver was driving while intoxicated, and arrests the driver, the driver is then required, under the Implied Consent Law, to submit to a chemical test of their blood or breath. Urine tests are typically only given when there is reason to believe that the driver is under the influence of drugs and alcohol. If, after arrested, the driver refuses to submit to a chemical test, this is a refusal and is subject to strict consequences with both the DMV and the Courts.
There are many things that should be taken into consideration when a person performs poorly on a field sobriety test. A number of things can affect a person’s performance when being asked to perform a roadside field sobriety test. First, anyone who is pulled over by a police officer, especially late at night, typically is nervous. When asked to perform a field sobriety test, the natural instinct of a person is that they must perform perfectly or they will be arrested for DUI or DWI, even if neither is the actual fact.
An experienced DUI Defense Attorney will look closely at the police report and at the conduct of the investigating officers. Specifically, any misconduct or violation of rights must be taken into consideration. Further, if a field sobriety test was performed, and this is what the arrest was based on, it should be challenged due to the fact that field sobriety tests are subjective, basically the opinion of the officer performing the test. There are many factors, other than alcohol, that can affect the way a person performs on FSTs. Here is a list of such factors:
– poor lighting
– uneven surface conditions
– the distraction of traffic, lights and spectators
– the type of footwear being worn
– weight, age, physical condition and natural coordination
– the officer’s instructions
– illness, and/or
Any or all of these factors can affect a person’s performance of an FST exercise. However, these tests are still considered reliable. An experienced DUI defense lawyer should still challenge the manner in which the tests were administered, the bias of the DUI officers and the fact there are a number of situations that can explain a person’s poor performance. Officers rarely, if at all, take the time to consider the factors listed above.
Anyone who has been arrested for DUI in Orange County, California, Driving Under the Influence or Drunk Driving, needs an attorney who is skilled and will gather the appropriate evidence, know how to use it intelligently and efficiently, and render the best possible outcome for their client.
If you would like to know more about driving under the influence, contact Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney William M. Weinberg at his Irvine, California office at 949-474-8008