What Happens When a Police Officer Gets a DUI?
Police officers know California DUI laws very well. They understand what it means to drive while under the influence. They also understand the penalties. Unfortunately, some officers still get behind the wheel drunk. When that happens, they are subject to the same laws and penalties as anyone else driving while intoxicated.
However, a police officer’s job could be in jeopardy after a DUI conviction. Contact our experienced Southern California DUI attorneys immediately for a free consultation if you’re facing DUI charges. We will develop a defense strategy that gives you the best chance of getting out of a DUI charge and will hopefully keep your career out of jeopardy.
What Happens When a Police Officer Gets a DUI in California?
No one is above the law. Police officers are subject to the same DUI laws as all other drivers. Police officers driving under the influence of alcohol can be stopped and arrested for DUI. The offending officer would receive a Notice of Suspension just like any other driver. The officer would also be given the choice of a blood test or breath test to determine their blood alcohol concentration (“BAC”) level. Additionally, refusing the chemical test would result in a longer administrative license suspension (“ALS”) by the California Department of Motor Vehicles (“DMV”).
The Notice of Suspension allows individuals to continue to drive for 30 days after the DUI arrest. It also notifies the person of their rights related to a DMV hearing. You have just 10 days after a DUI arrest to request a DMV hearing. If not, the DMV automatically suspends your driver’s license.
The police officer would face the same DUI penalties that the court would impose on any other driver convicted of DUI.
It is also important to note that police officers have the same legal rights as other drivers. Therefore, a police officer charged with intoxicated driving should call a California DUI attorney for a free consultation to discuss potential defense strategies to beat the DUI charges.
Statistics Regarding Police Officers and DUI Offenses
A 2016 study analyzed arrest records for 6,724 law enforcement officers over a seven-year period. During that time, 960 cases were DUI cases.
Unfortunately, it is difficult to know the exact number of law enforcement officers arrested for drunk driving each year. It is not uncommon for police officers enjoy an “exemption from law enforcement” or the “blue wall of silence.” In other words, police officers do not generally arrest other police officers. Instead, they give them a “pass” whenever possible. Although unethical, illegal, and dangerous, this is unfortunately a reality which corrupts this statistical data.
What is the Blue Wall of Silence?
The “Blue Wall of Silence” is the public perception that police officers protect each other. A fellow police officer will look the other way when an off-duty officer commits a crime. One way this situation could hypothetically play out is as follows: a police officer stops another officer for drunk driving. The officer making the stop then calls someone to pick up the drunk officer and drive them home in their car instead of arresting them for drunk driving.
However, while police officers have a strong bond with each other, they must also follow the law. California law states that anyone driving a motor vehicle under the influence of a drug or alcohol is committing a crime. Therefore, any officer making the traffic stop for a DUI should arrest the driver, regardless of whether the driver is a fellow officer.
Can You Be a Police Officer with a DUI Conviction in California?
No California law prohibits a person from being a police officer with a DUI conviction on their criminal history. However, criminal convictions can have collateral consequences that impact a person’s career. For example, some professional licensing boards can revoke or suspend licenses for individuals convicted of a crime.
A single drunk driving offense will not likely prevent you from becoming a police officer. However, you might find that some police departments or law enforcement agencies will decline to hire you. California does not have standard hiring policies for law enforcement agencies. Each agency or department may determine its own hiring policies, provided those policies do not violate anti-discrimination laws or California labor laws.
Therefore, you might be turned down by several police departments because of your DUI history, but another department might hire you. The key is to keep searching and not give up.
DUIs Involving People Who Want to Become Police Law Enforcement Officers
Multiple factors may help determine if a DUI impacts your career choice as a law enforcement officer. For example, a misdemeanor first-time DUI with no aggravating factors might not prevent you from being an officer. However, if you are a repeat offender or you were charged with felony DUI, a conviction might derail your career plans. Furthermore, aggravating factors could make finding work in law enforcement more difficult. Aggravating factors for California DUIs include:
- Driving with a minor under 14 years old in the car;
- Having a high BAC level (generally over .15%);
- Refusing a chemical test;
- Having prior drunk driving convictions;
- Speeding or racing at excessive speeds;
- Underage drinking and driving;
- Having a prior felony DUI conviction on your record; and
- Causing death or injury to another person while driving under the influence.
Any of the above aggravating factors can increase your DUI charges and enhance your sentence if convicted. You should never assume that a misdemeanor DUI charge is not a serious criminal offense. If you are a police officer or desire to make a career in law enforcement, you need to work with a Southern California DUI attorney to try to dismiss the charges.
What Factors Do Law Enforcement Agencies Consider When Reviewing a DUI for a Police Officer?
As discussed above, police departments and law enforcement agencies in California set their own hiring policies and requirements. While there are basic requirements to be a police officer, the state allows the agencies to set the remaining policies and procedures. Therefore, you need to look to the specific department(s) relevant to you to determine the eligibility requirements and the factors used when hiring an officer.
For example, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) states that a failure to follow all traffic laws could potentially disqualify a person from employment. On the other hand, the California Highway Patrol only shows the minimum requirements for officers on its website. However, it does state that a felony conviction disqualifies you, and you face questions about illegal drug use, arrests, traffic citations, at-fault car accidents, and convictions.
If the department or agency does not disqualify someone from employment for a DUI, they might consider several factors when deciding whether the conviction impacts the employment decision. Factors they might consider include:
- How old is the conviction for driving under the influence?
- Did you injure or kill someone when you were driving while intoxicated?
- What was the exact DUI charge, and were there any aggravating factors?
- Did you have the required automobile insurance before and after the DUI?
- Did you cause property damage?
- Was the conviction for a first-time DUI?
- Have you had any wet reckless or driving under the influence charges since then?
- Were you addicted to drugs at the time?
Working with an experienced California DUI attorney can help you keep your criminal record clean. If you cannot avoid a guilty verdict, a lawyer uses the evidence and the facts of the case to negotiate a plea deal with the best terms possible.
What Happens When a California Police Officer Gets a DUID?
DUID or driving under the influence of drugs could be viewed more harshly than driving under the influence of alcohol. Agencies often have zero tolerance policies regarding illegal drug use. For example, the City of Irvine states using drugs is an automatic disqualification for employment.
Furthermore, if the drugs in your system are illegal drugs, you could be guilty of one or more drug offenses.
What Are the California DUI Laws That an Officer Could Face?
California Vehicle Code §23152 makes it illegal to drive a vehicle when:
- You are under the influence of alcoholic beverages;
- You are under the influence of any drug;
- Your BAC is above .08%;
- You are under the influence of drugs and alcohol; or
- Your BAC level is above .05% if you drive a commercial motor vehicle or a vehicle that has passengers for hire in the vehicle when you are stopped for DUI.
California laws also include a zero-tolerance policy for underage drivers (drivers under 21 years old) and drivers who are currently on probation. They can be arrested if they refuse a preliminary alcohol screening (“PAS”) test or if they have any measurable amount of alcohol in their system.
A police officer on duty or off duty can be charged with one or more offenses if they have drugs or alcohol in their system. Their BAC does not need to exceed the legal limit to be arrested for DUI.
What Penalties Will a Police Officer Face if Convicted of DUI?
DUI penalties can be severe. Depending on the county of arrest and the factors involved in the case, a person could serve mandatory jail time for a misdemeanor first DUI charge. However, serving any amount of time in jail could be extremely challenging for a police officer.
Potential punishments an officer could face for a guilty verdict include:
- Fines and assessments, which could total thousands of dollars;
- Mandatory jail time or prison sentence;
- Installation of an ignition interlock device (“IID”);
- Attending DUI school;
- Driver’s license suspension or revocation; and
- Three to five years of summary or informal probation.
If you are a repeat offender, the DMV may designate you as a Habitual Traffic Offender.
Also, the judge generally imposes several conditions for probation. You might be required to attend one or more DUI programs and complete community service houses. Standard restrictions prevent you from consuming alcohol, using drugs, and committing other criminal offenses.
What Are the Work-Related Consequences When a Police Officer Has a DUI Conviction?
There could be several work-related consequences if you have a DUI conviction while employed as a police officer. For example, you could be placed on leave or suspended without pay. In addition, if you lose your driving privileges, you might be assigned to a desk job.
Depending on the facts of the case, the department might terminate your employment. You could be demoted or face other consequences. It all depends on the circumstances of your conviction and the policies the department has in place. This is why it is so important to have an experienced DUI attorney as soon as possible, so they are able to help you navigate the complex California DUI laws.
Potential DUI Defenses Cops Can Use When Charged with Drunk Driving
Just as cops are subject to the same laws as everyone else, they also have the same legal rights as everyone else charged with drinking and driving. For example, they have the right to remain silent and the right to legal counsel. They also have the right to present a defense and challenge the state’s evidence.
Potential defenses to a police officer’s DUI case include:
- The arresting officer did not have probable cause for the arrest;
- The officer making the traffic stop lacked reasonable suspicion;
- The drugs or alcohol in your system did not impair your driving ability;
- Mistakes and errors invalidated the chemical test results (i.e., violations of Title 17 regulations);
- Environmental factors impacted the results of field sobriety tests (“FSTs”);
- A health condition caused a falsely high BAC level;
- Residual amount of alcohol or rising alcohol levels caused the high BAC result;
- The arrest occurred at an illegal DUI sobriety checkpoint;
- Faulty or malfunctioning equipment; and
- The breathalyzer was not calibrated correctly.
There could be other DUI defenses in your case besides the ones listed above. A California DUI criminal defense attorney thoroughly analyzes all aspects of your case, including the state’s evidence. The investigation and evidence could result in additional defenses.
Does It Help to Have the DUI Expunged if I Am a California Law Enforcement Officer?
Most DUI convictions are eligible for expungement. To have your DUI expunged, you must meet the following criteria:
- You did not serve prison time;
- A state court issued the sentence;
- No probation violations;
- You completed probation, including all terms and conditions imposed by the court;
- It has been at least one year since your conviction if you were not sentenced to probation;
- No other criminal charges; and
- You are not serving time or probation for another crime.
An expungement under the California Penal Code §1203.4 does not remove the arrest from your record. However, it does remove the guilty verdict or plea and replace it with a not guilty plea. The court then dismisses the case, so it appears that you were never convicted of a crime. New expungement laws governing most DUI expungements after January 1, 2021, could seal the case. However, courts and law enforcement might have access to the records.
Talk to a California DUI Defense Attorney
Do not try to represent yourself if you are a police officer charged with a drunk or drugged driving offense. Instead, call us to schedule a free consultation with a California DUI attorney to discuss how we can help you fight the charges to prevent negative career consequences. As mentioned above, an experienced attorney can evaluate your case and discuss your options with you. A lawyer serving DUI clients will often offer a free no obligation consultation and everything discussed is protected by the attorney client relationship.
Schedule a free consultation with one of our expert California DUI attorneys here.
Interested in this topic or want to learn more about DUIs in California? Check out our recent article about whether or not a DUI charge could lead to termination of employment, and other related articles on our blog, which is updated regularly!