Many people consider Super Bowl Sunday to be a national holiday. It's a time when you gather with friends and family, enjoy food and drink, and watch a football game - usually in the comfort of your own home. Unfortunately, it seems that whenever there is a holiday, police have yet another reason to administer a good ol' DUI “crackdown.”
This time, Fresno police had 11 additional officers cruising around Fresno on Super Bowl Sunday, looking for “drunk drivers” to arrest. Law enforcement has determined that Super Bowl Sunday is a “big party day, for the most part people go to someone's house or go to a bar and party with a bunch of people,” said Anthony DeWall, Fresno Police Department. That's funny, I thought the Super Bowl was about football.
This extra enforcement on days like the Super Bowl and other holidays isn't free. In fact, the city of Fresno spends thousands of dollars every time the cops think that we need to do a “crackdown.” In addition to taxpayer money, cities often get grants that are required to be used on DUI operations during the year.
Grants are nice, because they “save” taxpayers some money, but could those grants be used for other things? Perhaps these grants should be used towards something that could make a real difference in alcohol-related crimes, like education.
When grants are given to cities or counties, these communities often feel like they need to “prove” that the money was well-spent. Generally, this means the more people arrested, the more justified the grant.
Unfortunately, a lot of these arrests are not lawful arrests. Of course, everyone likes to think (or at least hopes) that officers are doing their job “by the book” and only stopping drivers when there is probable cause. In reality, officers have been known to stereotype drivers because of the car they drive or the neighborhood they happen to be in at the moment.
So, what is probable cause? The concept is really pretty simple: there needs to be a sufficient amount of reliable information to support a reasonable belief that a person has committed a crime.
When probable cause gets discussed in the area of traffic stops, an officer really doesn't need much to pull you over. An officer is allowed to pull you over because you swerved, or violated a simple traffic law. I understand that drivers should be pulled over when there are signs of intoxication - our roads need to be kept safe. However, it is simply not ok for an officer to make up reasons to pull a driver over.
Further, once a driver is pulled over (justified or not), the officer is given pretty broad discretion regarding whether the driver should be arrested for DUI. Here's an example: So, you get pulled over because you failed to signal while you were changing lanes. The officer approaches the car and smells liquor. Maybe the smell was coming from your buddy in the backseat, you, in fact, hadn't been drinking that night. Nonetheless, the officer asks that you to step out of the car and perform a field sobriety test. You've never been in this situation before, but know that you will do fine because you hadn't been drinking. You begin the test, but while you are walking in a straight line, a car drives by and flashes its brights at you - you lose your balance and stumble. The officer uses this as evidence of intoxication and this leads to a DUI arrest.
I know what you're probably thinking - that's not fair! How can they do that? Well, they aren't supposed to, but unfortunately it happens, and it tends to happen more often during a “crackdown,” when the officers have something to prove.
I understand that not all DUI arrests lead to convictions! If you have been arrested and charged with DUI in Fresno, or the surrounding areas, give my office a call. We can schedule a consultation in order to discuss the specific facts of your case!