All of the drivers in California know – or if they don’t, they are supposed to know – that they can be arrested and charged for driving under the influence if they have too much to drink and then choose to drive a car, bus, or truck on a public street or highway in this state.
But how far does California’s DUI enforcement actually reach? Does it extend to private property? What about federal property? Precisely where can you be charged with DUI in California, and what issues are involved when a driving under the influence violation takes place on private property or on federal property?
In all fifty states, suspects are routinely arrested for DUI on private property.
In California, it is not at all uncommon for law enforcement officers to observe intoxicated motorists who are driving on private property or for law enforcement officers to make traffic stops and DUI arrests on private property.
The California Vehicle Code gives law enforcement officers considerable latitude to protect the public against drunk drivers in parking lots and on other private properties where vehicles are allowed to operate.
In the law’s own words, it applies to “vehicles upon the highways and elsewhere throughout the State unless expressly provided otherwise.” One might think that the word “elsewhere” is rather vague, but in 1992, the California Court of Appeals weighed in on the question of DUI enforcement on private property in this state.
In People v. Malvitz, the California Court of Appeals upheld the conviction of Ronald Malvitz for driving under the influence.
Malvitz had been driving a vehicle on private property inside a private storage facility. His attorneys had argued that because Malvitz had not been driving the vehicle on a public street or highway, he should not have been charged or convicted for driving under the influence.
The Court of Appeals, however, determined that California lawmakers expressly intended – with the use of the word “elsewhere” – to prohibit driving under the influence everywhere in the state, including driving under the influence on private property.
The Court held that intoxicated drivers are an imminent threat to innocent drivers, passengers, bystanders, and property not only on the state’s public streets and highways, but wherever they are driving under the influence in California.
WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE?
Of course, it’s far better not to be arrested anywhere and not to be charged with driving under the influence.
The standard advice cannot be repeated loudly or frequently enough: Don’t Drink and Drive. Admittedly, a ride home may cost you a few dollars, but even a five-star limo costs substantially less than going to jail, to the emergency room, or to the morgue.
If you are convicted of driving under the influence in the state of California – even for a misdemeanor first offense – it will cost you a total of about $10,000, and that’s entirely apart from any fee for legal representation.
It’s an easy choice. Hire a taxi or a limousine, make an arrangement with someone you trust to be a designated driver, or find a room for the night or a friend’s sofa. Do not drive for any reason whatsoever after drinking until you are completely sober.
The consequences of making a bad judgment about drinking and driving – and then being convicted for driving under the influence – are simply too high.
For a first DUI conviction in California, you can be fined up to $1,000 with up to $2,600 in additional “penalty assessments.” You could also be sentenced to serve up to six months in jail and three to five years on probation. Your driver’s license will be suspended for six months, and you’ll be ordered by the court to attend and pay for DUI education classes.
If your blood alcohol content level was excessively high, if your DUI conviction was linked to “aggravating” circumstances, or if you are convicted for a second or subsequent driving under the influence charge, the penalties will be harsher.
Even if you are “only” a first-time DUI offender, if you face a driving under the influence charge anywhere in southern California, speak as quickly as possible with an experienced Orange County DUI defense attorney.
HOW FAR CAN THE LAW REACH?
The reach of law enforcement’s ability to enforce the DUI law in California extends beyond the public streets and highways to private property in this state – just like the laws against murder or robbery – but what about lands and properties that are legally “beyond the reach” of the laws of the state of California?
Can you be charged with driving under the influence on federal lands and properties – locations like a national park or a military base? What are the rules?
National parks are federal lands under federal law, and California is the home of a number of spectacular national parks.
Among them, Yosemite, Death Valley, Sequoia, and Joshua Tree are just several of this state’s stunningly beautiful parks – great spots for enjoying the outdoors with family or friends.
While some people might appreciate tossing back a few beers in a national park while huddled around a campfire or fishing with some friends, if you drive a motorized vehicle in a national park after drinking too much, you could be charged with federal DUI under the Code of Federal Regulations.
If you are charged by federal law enforcement authorities with DUI on federal lands in southern California, contact an experienced Orange County DUI defense attorney as quickly as possible and get the legal help you need. A motorist may be charged with a federal DUI violation if:
– the driver is impaired by alcohol, drugs, or both, making the driver unable to safely operate a motor vehicle
– the alcohol content in the blood or breath is 0.10 grams or more of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood, or 0.01 grams or more of alcohol per 210 liters of breath
Obviously, national parks are not the only federal properties in California.
The state of California makes a critical contribution to our national defense as the setting for more military bases than any other state. That also means that this is the state where you are most likely to be arrested and charged with driving under the influence on a military base.
Whether or not you are serving in the U.S. military, if you are arrested and charged with driving under the influence on a U.S. military base, it’s a violation of federal law, and your DUI case will go to a United States District Court, not a California court. Federal DUI penalties in many cases will be even harsher than the penalties under California state law.
WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES?
A first-offense DUI in a national park or on a military base is prosecuted as a federal Class B misdemeanor.
A conviction for a federal driving under the influence charge is punishable by up to six months in a federal prison, a fine of up to $5,000, and probation for up to five years.
A refusal to submit to a chemical DUI test on federal property can lead to a loss of driving privileges on federal land for up to a year.
In this state, the California Department of Motor Vehicles will be notified of your refusal, and your driver’s license may be suspended for a year – just as if you had refused to test anywhere else in California.
Anyone who serves in the armed forces and who is arrested and charged with driving under the influence on a military base will face added consequences regarding his or her enlistment classification, the level of intoxication, and whether the defendant was on duty or off duty at the time of the arrest.
It is possible to be stripped of your rank – and to face additional military penalties – if you are in the military and you are convicted of an on-base DUI.
HOW CAN YOU PROTECT YOURSELF?
Whether you are a soldier or a civilian, if you are arrested for driving under the influence on a military base, get the legal advice and representation you need at once and contact an experienced DUI lawyer.
Federal DUI law is applied in California exclusively to drivers accused of driving under the influence in national parks or on military bases.
If you are arrested for driving under the influence on any other federal land or property in California, you will be prosecuted under the laws of the state. But you should understand that an arrest is not the equivalent of a conviction – the prosecution still must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and a good DUI attorney can very often find a mistake or an error in the government’s case against you and use it on your behalf.
If you are arrested and charged with DUI in southern California, whether it is a state or a federal charge, and whether it’s a first offense or you’ve been through the system before, protect yourself and your future.
Do not plead guilty to the charge, and do not try to act as your own attorney, either.
Instead, retain the high-quality legal help that you genuinely need, and arrange as quickly as possible to consult with an experienced Orange County DUI defense attorney.