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Drinking and Driving on Private Property

Posted on in DUI

Santa Cruz DUI lawyerDriving while intoxicated is illegal. An officer of the law cannot make an arrest on private property without a warrant. Both of these statements are true in general, but it is within the authority of the law to make an arrest on private property for DUI. However, there are always exceptions to every rule. Circumstances do exist where the legality of an arrest may be questionable.

Drunk Driving Is Illegal Everywhere

A common misconception exists that driving drunk on a road other than a public road is okay. The idea is not entirely without merit. Prior to 1982, the vehicle codes expressed that drunken driving was prohibited on public roads and highways, making no mention of private driveways and property. However, the law was altered to make no specification regarding public or private property. A ruling in 1992 became a defining moment when Ronald Dean Arnold Malvitz was found guilty of DUI even though he was driving on private property. The court determined during this case that driving and operating any vehicle in any location while under the influence of alcohol or drugs was dangerous to society.

Do Not Drive Home

As a direct result of the misconception that drunk driving is legal on private property, a driver will often continue driving to their residence with the police lights following behind them. This is not typically the best course of action. If the police are behind you with their lights on, it is always in your best interest to safely pull over. Not only can you still be arrested on your own property for DUI, it is also unlawful to avoid being detained. The law explicitly states:

“A suspect may not defeat a detention or arrest which is set in motion in a public place by fleeing to a private place.” (United States v. Santana, supra, 427 U.S. at p. 43 [49 L.Ed.2d at pp. 305-306]

Although legislature seeks to encompass most potential scenarios upon the writing of a law, it is impossible to be all-inclusive. Perhaps you own 20 or more acres and were having a beer while doing farm work and are now being charged with DUI. It would stand to question why the police were that far from the main road and whether the lives of others may have been at risk from the behavior.

The details of each individual situation are different and reviewing your defense options are well advised. If you would like to discuss your case with an experienced Santa Cruz, CA defense attorney, contact John J. Thornton, Attorney at Law to schedule your free consultation at 831-426-5800 or 831-566-4357.


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