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Understanding the California DUI Process: Part 1 – The Arrest

DUI process part one

Actually, the California DUI process sometimes starts with statements like “It’ll never happen to me.” “I’m responsible.” “I don’t take chances.” Statements like these are commonly elicited by people of all kinds when confronted by the topic of DUI. The statistics say otherwise, unfortunately. In California alone, there were over 200,000 DUI arrests in 2015. The reasons for this sizeable number are many. First, it must be conceded that many individuals do make the mistake of drinking and driving. Sometimes this decision is intentional, and may be either selfish or financial (not wanting to spend money on a taxi). Other times, drinking and driving may be the result of a failure to understand the impairing effects of alcohol, drugs, or prescription medications.

The explanations for the high number of DUI arrests in California are all driver-specific. To complete the picture, we must take into account the fact that the state of California has a strong interest in preventing and punishing drinking and driving. With a population of over 37,000,000 people, our state’s network of roads and highways is incredibly complex – especially in urban areas. Secondly, common sense tells us that cars, trucks, and other vehicles are much like deadly weapons when driven negligently or recklessly by a driver who is impaired by alcohol, drugs, or other substances. Heavy traffic plus impaired drivers leads to accidents, and accidents involving human beings and large, fast-moving objects leads to serious injuries, property damage, and even fatalities. These serious consequences of drinking and driving are the primary reason why the state of California aggressively polices DUI, and doles out serious penalties for even first time offenders.

The purpose of this article to explain the first stage of the DUI process: the arrest. If you have been charged with DUI in California, contact an experienced Petaluma DUI Defense attorney.

The Arrest is the First Part of the California DUI Process

The state of California polices DUI by authorizing law enforcement officers to both make traffic stops and utilize checkpoints to test for DUI and arrest drivers who fail or refuse a DUI test.  Importantly, California police officers are subject to Constitutional principles that protect our rights against unreasonable searches and seizures.

A police officer must possess probable cause to make a valid traffic stop in the state of California.  Probable cause is the existence of a reasonable suspicion of unlawful activity. In the DUI context, bases of probable cause include the officer’s observation of a traffic violation, safety defect in the vehicle, or a pattern of driving that indicates that the driver may be intoxicated. With regard to driving pattern, DUI indicators include erratic speed, swerving, or the visible presence of alcohol being consumed. With probable cause to make the initial traffic stop, the police officer can then ask a driver to take a breathalyzer test to determine the driver’s Blood Alcohol Content (BAC).

If you have been stopped and arrested for DUI in Sonoma County, Mendocino County or Lake County California, contact a skilled and experienced Santa Rosa DUI Defense attorney today.


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