Warrantless arrest in DUI cases: The exceptions to the Warrant Requirement
For a lawful arrest, law enforcement must show sufficient probable cause. This can be shown where the police officer witnesses the violation first hand (in misdemeanor cases) or the must secure an arrest warrant from a judge. This basic rule is known as the misdemeanor warrant rule, where police officers must first secure an arrest warrant if they did not witness the commission of a misdemeanor. In felony cases, a warrant is not required if there is a witness that notifies law enforcement that the felony occurred.
DUI cases are usually misdemeanors, so the “misdemeanor warrant rule” applies to them. Over the years, law enforcement found the misdemeanor warrant rule was overly burdensome in their enforcement efforts so they lobbied for a change in the law to allow for warrant-less arrests of DUI suspects.
CVC 40300.5: Warrantless arrests for DUI cases
The law in California was amended and basic protections of individual liberty were curtailed by Vehicle Code Section 40300.5. Law enforcement officers in the state of California can arrest someone on suspicion of misdemeanor DUI if they can show one of the following:
(a) The person is involved in a traffic accident.
Often law enforcement will come upon the scene of an accident. Even though the officers did not observe the misdemeanor violation (person driving under the influence) they can form the requisite legal justification based on the circumstances of the accident scene.
(b) The person is observed in or about a vehicle that is obstructing a roadway.
This occurs when a person parks their car partially or totally in a roadway. Even though officers did not observe driving, they can infer driving based on the circumstances in which they find the driver.
(c) The person will not be apprehended unless immediately arrested.
This sub section of CVC 40300.5 is frankly a loop-hole someone could drive a car through. Pretty much any person at risk of being arrested, or even thinking they are at risk of being arrested, is likely to run.
(d) The person may cause injury to himself or herself or damage property unless immediately arrested.
This justification is often used in DUI cases because an impaired driver certainly creates a risk of property or person damage if they are allowed to drive away.
(e) The person may destroy or conceal evidence of the crime unless immediately arrested.
This is another loop hole that is relied upon by law enforcement to arrest people without a warrant.