For an Orange County DUI Conviction, the district attorney must meet all elements of California law for DUIs. One of these is that the government must prove that you were driving while you had a Blood Alcohol Level (BAC) high enough to justify arrest. There are many different ways the prosecutor can prove an Orange County DUI. However, some situations are more complicated and more difficult to prove than others.
The first and easiest is if the police had a valid reason to pull you over in the first place.
There are several situations where you may be lawfully pulled over and questioned with regard to an Orange County DUI. The arresting officer may pull you over for any vehicle code violation, whether it is related to alcohol impairment or not. Alternatively the stop does not even need to be directly tied to driving at all. If the officer had probable cause (that any crime was committed and that you likely committed it) then they can make the stop to further investigate. The key however, is whether or not the officer can sufficiently “articulate” the reason for the stop.
If the officer can articulate the reason for the stop, then there will be sufficient probable cause for the officer to further investigate whether or not he can make an Orange County DUI arrest. This may seem like a simple task, but in truth this stage is where the government’s case is most vulnerable.
It is always the primary goal of Core Law Group’s DUI defense attorneys to immediately investigate whether the initial stop was valid. If it was not (and often it is not) then any evidence obtained by the officer from that point on can be argued as inadmissible and result in a dismissal of your case. However, it takes a trained eye and knowledge of the vehicle and penal codes to identify errors made by an officer at the arrest stage.
The second requirement is if the officer has sufficient probable cause to investigate whether you were driving under the influence of alcohol or another substance.
Once an individual is pulled over for an Orange County DUI, they are almost always asked by the police officer if they have had anything to drink. Every police officer is trained to do this. The reason is that an answer in the affirmative automatically gives them necessary probable cause to move on to the next stage of investigation. This is when individuals should stay silent. However, experience shows us that almost all of our clients by nature are honest and tell the officer if they have been drinking. Once you tell the officer that you have had any measurable amount of alcohol to drink they can automatically continue to observe (and test) you.
However, if an individual does not admit to having consumed alcohol then the officer has to take the additional step of using their skill, knowledge, training and experience to determine if the objective signs of impairment are visible. Again they must be able to articulate these facts, which can be difficult. Therefore, it is best that an individual does not volunteer or admit they have consumed alcohol.
This is normally the stage where the officer asks a driver to step out of the vehicle and perform multiple field sobriety tests (FSTs). However, the law only states that an officer must observe the driver for fifteen minutes prior to determining whether the person was driving under the influence. This includes simply observing an individual while they sit on the side walk for fifteen minutes. Of course, this option makes it more difficult for the officer to articulate why they believe the driver was under the influence.
To ease their burden, police departments have instituted various FSTs. Through FSTs officers can document why they believe an individual was driving while impaired. However, these tests are not perfect and there are many specific requirements officers must meet while documenting the results of the test. If the FSTs were not administered properly, the arresting officer may lack the probable cause necessary to make the arrest.
Of course, police departments have found a way to ease their burden at this stage of the investigation as well. Just about every agency in California uses Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) tests as a means to bolster their argument for probable cause. This is when the officer offers the driver a Breathalyzer at the scene of the investigation. Police officers know that most individuals mistakenly believe they have to consent to this test and they use that to their advantage. The reality is that prior to arrest, the breath test is voluntary.
If an individual agrees to the Breathalyzer and blows over the legal limit then the officer has easily established probable cause. However, the arrest at this stage is not fool-proof. California law requires the arresting officer to give a very specific admonition to the driver stating that the PAS test is voluntary.
Finally, the mandatory chemical test must provide sufficient proof of probable cause for the arrest.
California Law requires a driver must agree to a chemical test (either a breath test or blood test) after they have been arrested. A refusal results in automatic suspension of driving privileges and sentencing enhancements in the criminal case. This mandatory chemical test (unlike the PAS test above) is given at a police station or sub-station and the driver is given the election of which test to take. If a breath test is elected, a breathalyzer is administered to record the individual’s BAC. If a blood test is elected then a sample of blood is taken for further testing. Once again, neither test if fool-proof.
To learn more about this issue or other areas of law visit the Core Law Group blog or call one of our attorneys at 949-505-2479.