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Can I Be Arrested for DUI After Leaving a Bar?

It seems like police officers could just park outside of bars and they’d be able to nab hundreds, if not thousands of drunk drivers all over the country. If officers were encouraged to do that by local law enforcement agencies, we’d see cops dotted all over the place near bars, but we don’t now do we? In reality, such activities are far more clandestine. Usually, bar patrons don’t see the cops until they’re in their rear-view mirrors.

Can you imagine if police were routinely parked outside of drinking establishments? People would stop visiting them, and bar and nightclub owners would go straight to the city to complain the cops are “bad for business,” and they’d lose a fortune.

The economy would feel it and some of our favorite bars would shut down. Less revenue to fund local police departments. For more reasons than one, police are NOT supposed to sit outside of drinking establishments just waiting to follow bar patrons as they exit the building, climb into the driver’s seat and drive away. But, it happens EVERY DAY.

Officer: ‘Where Are You Coming From?’

Sometimes cops are plain bored. Other times they are confident they can “catch a fish,” a drunk driver who doesn’t know the law and who won’t question them. So, they park outside of a bar or nightclub, just waiting for bar patrons to fan outside at closing time. Once they get someone in their sights, they’re on the hunt.

The officers follow the driver after he or she leaves the bar. The officers pull the DUI suspect over and one of the cops ask, “Where are you coming from?” with full knowledge of the fact that the driver just left a bar. When the driver comes back with, “Oh sir, I just came from the Mad Oak Bar (or another local bar like Trappist or Dogwood),” next the officer will say something to the effect of, “Have you been drinking tonight?” Nervous, the driver says, “Ah, yes sir. I had a couple of drinks” then things go downhill from there.

From this point forward, the officer asks the driver to step outside their vehicle and perform the field sobriety tests, which are hard for even sober people to pass. Then comes the breath test and usually what follows is the DUI arrest. After all, in California, you can be arrested for DUI, even if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is below the .08% legal limit. In other words, the officers just got themselves a slam-dunk arrest, but was the way they went about it legal?

Officers Are Not Supposed to Cherry-Pick

Officers are NOT supposed to park outside of bars so they can cherry-pick drivers suspected of DUI. Instead, officers are supposed to have probable cause to initiate a traffic stop. They are supposed to have witnessed the driver violate a traffic law, such as speeding, running a red light or blowing through a stop sign. Driving away from a bar alone is NOT probable cause to stop someone for DUI.

If officers tailed you as you drove away from a bar and pulled you over for DUI simply because you had visited a bar, not because you broke a traffic law, or because a tipster reported you drunk driving, you may have reason to get the evidence suppressed and your DUI case dismissed. If this happened to you, contact the Law Office of Nabiel C. Ahmed to discuss the possibility of a suppression motion. Don’t let an officer’s error seal your fate.

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