Can an individual be cited or arrested for a DUI violation while they are operating a motor vehicle on private property?by Attorney Felicia Woods-Yates on 11/08/15
Can an individual be cited or arrested for a DUI violation while they are operating a motor vehicle on private property?...11/8/2015
The short answer is YES. If you ask people, they will almost uniformly agree that a California driver may be cited or arrested for a DUI violation while on a publicly-accessible highway, roadway, alley, parking lot, etc. What people will not necessarily agree upon, is whether a California driver can be lawfully cited or arrested for driving under the influence while on private property.
Prior to 1982, California Vehicle Code (CVC) section 23152 made it illegal to drink and drive on California highways, and other areas open to the public - which meant a person drinking and driving on a private roadway would not be in violation of DUI laws. CVC section 23152 was modified in 1982, to prohibit a DUI violation regardless of the location of the driving .
In 1992, the California Court of Appeals issued a ruling in the case of People v. Malvitz (1992) 11 Cal.App.4th Supp. 9, which dealt directly with this issue. A driver was arrested for DUI while driving on the premises of a private, locked, storage facility. The Court upheld the conviction, stating that the inherent dangers of driving under the influence, outweighed considerations over whether a road was public or private. The Court essentially stated that Vehicle Code section 23152(a) prohibits driving a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, even though the vehicle is driven in an area not [normally] open to the general public - regardless of whether the property is publicly or privately owned. The CA appellate court has more recently stated that drinking alcohol on private property (inside of a gated, secured apartment complex) would not rise to the level of criminal activity, and a person could not be legally detained by law enforcement under those circumstances due to a lack of reasonable suspicion - which is the threshold requirement to detain someone in the State of California. See also People v. Krohn (2007) 149 Cal.App.4th 1294.
Therefore, a person may be cited or arrested for a DUI which takes place on private property - such as a private country club, a secluded farm or ranch property, an exclusive gated community, or the grounds of a fancy residential estate.
Since everyone's DUI incident is unique to that individual and the specific circumstances, you should consult with a competent defense attorney to determine your best course of action. Felicia Yates has been practicing law for over 30 years in California and can be reached at (760) 326-5297, and found at Law Offices of Felicia Yates & Associates.