Under California law, it is illegal to drive while under the influence of alcohol, under any circumstances. Many people may think California's DUI laws only apply when you are driving on public California roads and highways. In reality, California DUI laws extend to driving any vehicle anywhere, on or off road. In the past, California's DUI laws specified that the criminal act must take place on California's roads or highways, but they were later revised to apply to any situation of driving while under the influence, independent of on whose property it took place. The courts view driving under the influence of alcohol as dangerous and a threat to California citizens on public or private property. In fact, you can get a DUI in California for driving an off-road vehicle or even for operating a boat while under the influence, also called a BUI. That being said, California law does not discriminate against what you are driving or where, so long as you were driving while under the influence. Unfortunately, this leaves some room for ambiguity. Does private property count? Can the police come onto private property to arrest me? What about parking lots? Understanding the intricacies of California DUI law can help elucidate the basics of when and where you can get a DUI, making it easier for you to avoid a conviction.
Private property, while generally not patrolled by California law enforcement, is still property on which you can be arrested for a DUI. Parking lots, while not technically part of California's roads and highways, are still property on which you can drive, and thus can pose a danger to others if you are driving while under the influence. This is true even if the parking lot is empty or if you are driving just a few miles an hour. Now, it is possible for you to be simply sitting in your car in a parking lot. Unfortunately, you can be arrested for a DUI even if you were not caught driving your vehicle. If an officer has reason to believe you were driving while under the influence, he or she may have probable cause to arrest you. Penalties for a first-time DUI conviction include up to six months in a county jail, a fine of up to $1,000, in addition to fees, three years of summary, or informal, probation, and an order to participate in and complete a court-approved DUI education program, at a cost to you. If you are convicted in Los Angeles, Tulare, Sacramento, or Alameda counties, you will also be ordered to install an ignition interlock device, or IID, in any car you own or drive. If you are convicted in any other county, you may still be ordered to install an IID at the court's discretion. The California DMV will suspend your license for six months and you will have to submit proof of insurability in the form of an SR-22 certificate and pay a reinstatement fee to have your license reinstated. In addition to these consequences, your insurance rates will rise, and you will have a criminal conviction on your record that will follow you for years to come. A second or subsequent offense will result in even harsher consequences.
If you are facing DUI charges, regardless of where you were arrested, don't take a chance on your defense. If you are serious about fighting your charges, obtain the assistance of an experienced California DUI defense attorney right away. An attorney with dedicated experience in California DUI defense will be able to evaluate your case and assist you with preparing a defense for court. While driving in a private parking lot is not a valid legal defense to a DUI charge, there may be other approaches to your defense you can take. If the officer did not have probable cause to pull you over, you may have a successful defense. Or, if he or she suspected you were driving when you were really just sitting in your car and did not have the capability to drive, your charges may be dropped with a strong defense.
Are you or a loved one facing DUI charges? Contact attorney Christopher Martens and his legal team for legal help in Tulare, Fresno or Kings County. Experienced in DUI defense, our Visalia area legal team can ensure you take the right steps toward having a strong defense. Attorney Martens has over ten years experience in criminal defense and will fight for your rights in court. Call our Visalia or Hanford, CA offices at 559-967-7386 or email us at [email protected] for a free consultation.