Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility
Contact Us for a Free Consultation 510.785.1444

Why did the police arrest me for a DUI when I wasn't drunk?

The police can arrest a driver if they have probable cause to believe the driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This does not mean the driver has to be acting drunk. Even if the driver is able to pass a breathalyzer and pass all field sobriety tests, the police could still arrest the driver if they suspect the driver is impaired.

Drivers are generally at a disadvantage when stopped at the side of the road by the police. However, it is important to remember that the police can place you under arrest but the police cannot convict you of a crime. If you have a problem with the way the police are handling your traffic stop, the time to fight back is in the courtroom, not on the side of the road. If you are arrested for a DUI in the East Bay, contact the experienced California DUI lawyer Lynn Gorelick today.

California Law on When a Driver is Drunk?

There is no definition of “drunk” in the California vehicle code. Instead, under California Vehicle Code 23152, “it is unlawful for a person who is under the influence of any alcoholic beverage to drive a vehicle.”

The police are trained in alcohol and drug detection but this does not make them experts in alcohol or drugs. Instead, they look for some typical signs of alcohol and drug use, even if there is a totally innocent explanation. Signs of possible drug or alcohol use may include:

  • Bloodshot eyes,
  • Delayed reactions,
  • Twitching or shaking,
  • Rapid or rambling speech,
  • Involuntary eye movements,
  • Poor balance
  • Slow or rapid breathing,
  • Lethargy,
  • Sweating, or
  • Slurred speech.

The problem with relying on these subjective signs is that there are a number of reasons why a person may be reacting like this that are totally unrelated to drugs or alcohol. Most people feel some anxiety when they see lights and sirens in the rearview mirror. Even if they haven't done anything wrong, it is common to be nervous.

Some people are just naturally fast talkers, others are slow. Many of us know someone who acts nervous, twitchy, or rambles on when totally sober. Unfortunately, the police like to rely on these “signs” to arrest a person on suspicion of impaired driving. Once under arrest, drivers in California are required to submit a blood or breath test.

Arrested for Smells of Alcohol or Marijuana

Another common reason for arresting a driver who is not drunk is because of alleged smells of alcohol or marijuana.

Alcohol can have a strong smell, especially if it gets on an individuals clothing. But alcohol on the clothing does not necessarily mean the driver was drinking. When attending an event like a basketball game, soccer game, or baseball game, it is not uncommon for another patron to spill some beer on others when squeezing through narrow seating rows. Going to a live music concert often results in drink spills by drunk fans. These smells can stay on an individual during the drive home.

Marijuana also has a strong and unique odor. Especially now that marijuana is legal for recreational use in California, it is not uncommon for people to be around others smoking marijuana even if they are not using. Outdoor music venues or parties often have marijuana smoke wafting, which can get into an individual's clothing, even if they remain sober.

An officer may act like they are Sherlock Holmes by detecting the smell of alcohol or marijuana on a driver who denies drinking or smoking. A smell alone may be a reason for the officer to arrest the driver.

What can I do if the police arrested me for a DUI when I wasn't drunk?  

Unfortunately, at the time of the arrest, there may be nothing you can do to stop getting taken into custody, booked, and charged with a DUI. However, as soon as possible, go to an experienced East Bay DUI defense attorney to talk about your case.

There may be a number of ways to challenge the traffic stop, probable cause for arrest, and evidence gathered by the police to justify an arrest. Talk to your DUI lawyer today to understand your rights and learn how to fight the criminal charges to avoid a criminal record.  

DUI Defense by East Bay Criminal Defense Lawyer

East Bay attorney Lynn Gorelick has more than 30 years of DUI experience and understands how to challenge police officer arrests for what they wrongly think is an impaired driver. If you are facing criminal charges for a DUI in Contra Costa County and Alameda County, contact East Bay DUI lawyer Lynn Gorelick today.

Serving The Bay Area

We strive to make the highest quality legal representation accessible and affordable.