Articles Posted in DUI Checkpoints

The California Department of Insurance just issued an advisory in preparation for heightened DUI enforcement over the July 4th holiday period. Noting that over half of vehicle fatalities involved multiple substances, including cannabis.  The CHP reports that there has been a 28 percent increase over the decade of fatalities involving some sort of drug, including prescribed drugs.

In response to this uptrend, the Department of Insurance is sponsoring demonstrations where young drivers put on a suit that simulates being under the influence of marijuana and alcohol. The suited-up drivers then drive on a controlled course. The opportunity to suit up will also be offered to reporters, no doubt with the hope that their experience will be filmed and reported on in the local media.

The vehicles that the suited-up drivers will operate will also be equipped with GoPro cameras. The footage captured will be made available to the media.   Also on hand for the demonstrations will be law enforcement representatives to discuss the effects of drunk or drugged driving.

Selective Traffic Enforcement Program (STEP) Grant DUI Saturation Patrol, now that’s a mouthful. STEP grants are awarded by the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) to programs across the state that serve to achieve the STEP grant goal of reducing the number of deaths and injuries on our roads and highways. The OTS campaign includes safety awareness and education, but the bulk of the grants go to police enforcement of DUI laws. That’s where the DUI Saturation Patrol comes in.

DUI Saturation Patrols operate throughout Orange County. Many of these patrols are funded by STEP grants. A DUI saturation patrol targets specific areas, at specific times, that are known to have large concentrations of drivers under the influence. The officers deployed on a saturation patrol are specially trained and specifically patrolling for drivers under the influence. Every city in Orange County and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department have saturation patrols, most funded by a STEP grant. Saturation patrols are almost exclusively deployed in the evening and night hours and increased during holidays. DUI Saturation Patrols are not the same thing as DUI checkpoints although they are often deployed in tandem and have the same goal: To reduce the number of drivers on the road who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Officers on a DUI saturation patrol are specifically looking for driving behaviors that suggest the driver is under the influence. However, just because a driver’s behavior is suspicious does not mean the officer can lawfully pull a driver over. The driver must be violating a traffic code; speeding, unsafe lane changes, or driving without the required lights (even one burned out tail light can be a violation), and failure to properly use blinkers are obvious candidates. But officers can also cite a driver for lane straddling, tailgating, or driving at a slow speed and other “catch-all” type violations. If the initial stop was not based on a reasonable suspicion that the driver was violating the law, the stop may be challenged by a motion to suppress on the grounds that the stop was unlawful.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) studies the effectiveness of DUI counter measures and publishes reports on the findings. You may be surprised to learn that one of the most effective deterrents to driving under the influence is DUI checkpoints. You probably know what a checkpoint is; most likely, you have probably also driven through one.

In what is described as high-quality studies, the NHTSA reports that publicized checkpoints reduce alcohol-related fatalities, injuries, and property damage crashes each by about 20%. You might think that the police want to keep the locations of their DUI checkpoints a secret in order to snag unsuspecting drivers but that is not correct. According to the NHTSA, the purpose of the checkpoints is not to increase arrests but to deter drunken driving by increasing the perceived risk of getting arrested for DUI. To that end, the effectiveness of checkpoints depends on well-publicized and highly visible checkpoints conducted on a regular basis.

In one particularly compelling study, a year-long program of weekly checkpoints in two West Virginia counties resulted in a 70% fewer drivers with BACs over the drunken driving threshold in those counties as compared to West Virginia counties that did not operate the weekly checkpoints.

Orange County Cracks Down on Driving Under the Influence Drivers

Orange County continues to reinforce their commitment to crack down on individuals who drive under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.

As they do every year, Orange County law enforcement agencies began their “Avoid Campaign” during the holiday season with their DUI task forces out in full force. It began on December 15, 2014 with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department searching out high risk DUI offenders with outstanding arrest warrants. Individuals who either failed to show up for their court date or who had violated the terms of their probation were sought out and arrested.

Every summer, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department launches their “Summer/Labor Day National Anti-DUI mobilization” in an effort to minimize the number of people who get behind the wheel after drinking.  The campaign has been in effect for several years now, and the Sheriff’s Department has made the campaign public, hoping to deter people from driving after a night of drinking and partying with friends.

The campaign usually starts sometime in late June or early July and continues through Labor Day weekend.  The Sheriff’s Department puts out extra effort to crack down on drunk drivers during this time because the summer months, after school lets out, is the time when people are celebrating the end of school, graduations and vacations.   Also,  summertime in Orange County, with its beaches and great weather, brings people out of their homes to socialize in their beach communities.

The campaign this year began with the “Avoid the 38” campaign, which started on August 15th and ended on August 24th.  The campaign consisted of officers and deputies from 38 Orange County law enforcement agencies, and resulted in 483 arrests for DUI of alcohol and/or drugs.  This number is up from 374 arrests that were made during the same campaign in 2013.

Now that the 2012 “Winter Holiday Anti-DUI Crackdown” has ended, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department has posted the results. In keeping with the “Avoid the 38” DUI Campaign, 38 Orange County law enforcement agencies conducted sobriety checkpoints, special saturation patrols and routine patrols for the Winter Holiday period December 14, 2012 through January 1, 2013. Not all numbers are in yet but preliminarily, it is being reported that there were 971 arrests for DUI made during the 19-day period. This number is up from the previous year, which resulted in 836 arrests for DUI.

I am a DUI defense lawyer and my practice is based in Orange County, CA. Over the past 20 years I have seen the incorporation of these checkpoints and saturation patrols, into the law enforcement agencies and have watched them evolve. What a lot of people don’t know is that the law enforcement officers must conduct these stops under very strict guidelines. For instance, it is perfectly legal for someone to purposely avoid a checkpoint. If an officer notices this, they cannot then pull them over unless there is legal cause to do so. Avoiding the checkpoint is not legal cause. It is important that anyone who has been arrested at checkpoint hire an attorney who is familiar with the guidelines and laws associated with such an arrest. If any of the required steps are not followed and documented, it could result in the case being dismissed.

What Are Some Of The Guidelines?

1. Each agency that conducts a checkpoint must have a supervising officer who is in charge of the operation of the checkpoint. The supervisor makes the decisions as to where and when it will take place.

2. The checkpoint must be in an area with a history of DUI arrests or accidents. Also, safety to the public must be taken into consideration when determining where the checkpoint will be.

3. The upcoming checkpoints must be made public, prior to the date scheduled.

4. There must be signs, lights, the presence of police officers or marked cars, so that it is the visible to any approaching drivers. This gives drivers the opportunity to avoid he checkpoint if they so desire.

Orange County is known for being one of the most aggressive and strict when it comes to driving under the influence. Lawmakers and interested groups are continually coming up with newer and more aggressive ways to seek out, arrest and convict people suspected of driving under the influence. Other counties in California are beginning to look to Orange County as a leader in the fight against drunk drivers. Because of this, I always question the initial stop first. An officer must have probable cause to pull someone over. There seems to be an increase in officers “fishing” to find drivers who are under the influence and initiating a stop without cause. My clients are often surprised to learn that, even if they were intoxicated, if the stop was illegal, the case can be dismissed. So, it is very important to understand the guidelines that officers must adhere to.

Anyone who has been arrested for DUI in Orange County should seek the advice and assistance of a DUI Defense Attorney in Orange County, CA. Because Orange County is so strict, an attorney who is familiar with, and has a good working relationship with, the judges and district attorneys in the Orange County Courts, will be in a better position to get the best possible outcome for someone who is facing a DUI charge. Although DUI cases are prosecuted aggressively, there are ways to lessen the severity of the punishment that allows for people to go on living their normal lives and keep their jobs without interruption.

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The Orange County, California DUI Task Force is a multiagency task force made up of the California Highway Patrol, local police agencies and the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. This task force is also known as the “Avoid the 38” which refers to the 38 law enforcement agencies involved in the anti-DUI enforcement operation.

A two-week anti-DUI period, leading up to Labor Day, is already under way and has so far resulted in more than 500 arrests for DUI. Orange County authorities report that 543 DUI arrests have been made since mid-August and, they expect that number to go up.

DUI checkpoints and roving patrols are planned throughout Orange County beginning Friday, August 31 through Monday, September 3rd. Brea Police Department will conduct a checkpoint from Friday at 8:30 p.m. until Saturday at 2:30 a.m. Santa Ana PD will conduct their checkpoint from Saturday at 8:30 p.m. through Sunday at 1:30 a.m. at 2000 W. First Street. Buena Park’s checkpoint will be from Saturday at 7:00 p.m. until Sunday at 2:00 a.m. at Beach Blvd., and 10th Street.

Orange County police agencies have scheduled DUI checkpoints and saturation patrols for the cities of Santa Ana, Newport Beach and Rancho Santa Margarita tonight, June 22, 2012. A checkpoint has also been scheduled in Fountain Valley for June 29, 2012.

DUI Checkpoints, also known as, Sobriety Checkpoints, are roadblocks, set up temporarily on public streets, to catch drunk drivers and to cite others for Vehicle Code violations. The police departments conducting these checkpoints must adhere to strict guidelines, which have been established by the Courts. Anyone who is arrested for DUI, at a sobriety checkpoint, should contact an experienced Orange County California DUI attorney to determine whether the checkpoint was conducted according to the guidelines. If the police department conducting the checkpoint did not follow the guidelines properly, the checkpoint is determined to be unlawful and any evidence obtained during the arrest may not be admissible in Court.

The guidelines for conducting a DUI Checkpoint are as follows: 1) The establishment and location of the checkpoints must be decided by supervisory police officers, not officers in the field; 2) Police must use a neutral mathematical formula, such as every driver or every third, fifth, or tenth driver to determine who to stop; 3) Proper lighting, warning signs and signals, and clearly identifiable official vehicles are required; 4) The location chosen must be most effective in actually stopping drunk drivers, such as roads which have a high incidence of alcohol-related accidents and arrests; 5) The time and duration of sobriety checkpoints are also important; 6) High visibility is required so that the drivers can easily see the nature of the roadblock; 7) Each motorist stopped should be detained only long enough for the officer to question the driver briefly and to look for signs of intoxication; and 8) Sobriety checkpoints must be announced to the public in advance.

The Supreme Court has also stated that motorists who want to avoid a roadblock may do so and not be subjected to being detained merely because they attempted to avoid the roadblock. The motorist must have committed a vehicle code violation or displayed obvious signs of intoxication for there to be probable cause to pull the motorist over.

Anyone who is arrested at a DUI checkpoint Orange County should contact an experienced Attorney to determine whether or not their Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures, were violated.

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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.

Once an officer has pulled an individual over, the officer may ask the individual to step out of the vehicle. If the officer based the stop on reasonable suspicion, he may detain the driver only long enough to confirm or dispel the officer’s suspicions. If the stop was based on probable cause, the officer may conduct a more thorough investigation.

A recent Supreme Court decision has upheld the lower standard of “reasonable suspicion” in State vs. Starkey. In that case, Starkey was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. The stop was based on the officer’s observation/opinion that Starkey was attempting to avoid the police patrol car. Starkey’s attorney filed a motion to suppress the evidence on the grounds that the officer lacked reasonable suspicion to stop Starkey. The circuit court granted Starkey’s motion and suppressed the evidence. However, the Supreme Court then reversed the circuit court’s decision and remanded the case for further proceedings.

In the Starkey case, the officer observed Starkey stopping and waiting until the officer was ahead and then turning. The Officer then turned and followed Starkey. Starkey made several attempts to avoid the officer and ended up going in a circle at which time the officer pulled Starkey over. The Supreme Court ruled that Starkey’s actions warranted “reasonable suspicion”. It is important to note that none of Starkey’s actions were illegal. The sole basis for the stop was the police officer’s suspicion. In my view, this is clearly a case in which an appeal was warranted and the Supreme Court’s reasoning for it’s decision to uphold the “reasonable suspicion” stop was weak at best.

Anyone who has been arrested for driving under the influence needs an experienced criminal defense attorney, specializing in DUI, who is familiar with the law as it relates to police officers and their duty to follow the law when it comes to stops and detention. A police officer that makes a mistake or fails to show “reasonable suspicion” can result in a charge of DUI being dismissed.

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The Orange County CHP reported making 70 arrests for drunk driving this New Year’s. That number is up significantly from 2011, which reported only 36. As a DUI Defense Attorney practicing in Irvine, California, my experience working with all of the courts in Orange County has shown me that Orange County is one of the strictest when it comes to drinking and driving.

The following are standard penalties associated with a conviction for driving under the influence or DUI, in Orange County, California:

DUI 1st Offense: Jail time (up to 6 months); fines (up to$1,000.00); community service; probation; DUI School; and driver’s license suspension.

DUI 2nd Offense: Jail time (up to a year); fines (up to $1,000.00); community service; probation; DUI School; driver’s license suspension; and vehicle impoundment.

DUI 3rd Offense: Jail time (up to a year); fines (up to $2,000.00); community service; probation; DUI School; driver’s license suspension; and vehicle impoundment.

DUI, or driving under the influence, charges are typically charged as misdemeanors. However, some DUI’s can be charged as felonies. A DUI that is charged as a Felony DUI, usually involves DUI manslaughter; DUI causing serious injury; 3rd DUI conviction within 10 years; and 4th DUI conviction at any time. Drunk drivers who cause injury, or DUI with injury is sometimes referred to as a “wobbler” charge, which means that it can be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor. However, prosecutors typically pursue the charge that carries the most punishment.

A conviction for DUI can carry long lasting effects on a person’s life and for that reason, it is important for anyone facing a DUI conviction, to have experienced legal representation. A good Orange County Criminal Defense Attorney, who has expertise in DUI arrests, will make every effort to have the charges reduced and/or dismissed. A key factor in choosing an attorney is to look for an attorney who is familiar with the Court in which the case is pending, as well as the other Courts in Orange County. A good relationship with the Judges, District Attorneys, Court Clerks and other personnel can influence a positive outcome and ensure that you get the best possible result.

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