More DUI arrests are made in California than in any other U.S. state, and the California Highway Patrol (CHP) is the largest state-level law enforcement agency, having over 7,500 officers in its employ. Charged with monitoring the entirety of the California highway system, the CHP sets high standards for itself in carrying out this duty, which are expressed in the CHP Code of Honor. All officers must swear to uphold the honor code, which binds them to fairly enforce all state highway laws in strict conformity to established protocols and to always conduct themselves in a manner that is above all reproach.
Violating the CHP Code of Honor
A failure to comply with all state laws and enforcement procedures while on duty, including during a DUI stop, is a failure to abide by the CHP Code of Honor. It is also a violation of the very badge the officer wears, for the seven points of its star represent, among other things, Knowledge of the law, good Judgment in applying it and the Courtesy of respect for law and order and for the rights of the individual.
Officers who cut corners, make mistakes, or knowingly violate Constitutional rights during a DUI arrest give an opening for the DUI defense attorney to get his client’s charges reduced or dismissed. Let’s look at some of the most common examples of such violations.
CHP policy says that officers are to “record enforcement actions in their entirety.” Yet, during Field sobriety tests (FSTs), most officers escort the suspect off-camera to conduct the test, which could serve to conceal important evidence. For example, if the terrain on which the suspect walked was not flat and level, this could affect test performance. NHTSA guidelines specify that FSTs must take into account pavement structure as well as driver fatigue, weather and medical conditions.
In addition, the actual performance may differ from the officer’s descriptions, which is why the words spoken are also important. Attorney Jon Artz, in a recent DUI trial in the Los Angeles area, won a 12/0 12/0 not guilty verdict for his client in February 2016 by using the defense that the police offer failed to take the recording. The jury did not like the failure of the officer to not follow protocol which resulted in the not guilty verdict for Mr. Artz’ client.
The preliminary alcohol screening (PAS) test is used to measure blood-alcohol content via a hand-held breathalyzer that gives an instant reading. The PAS is a voluntary test not subject to the California’s implied consent statute. Many officers, however, fail to inform drivers that the test is voluntary in order to gain extra evidence to use against them in court. Additionally, the test itself is often administered incorrectly in that the officer does not continue to observe the suspect for the full pre-test-period (15 minutes), but gets distracted doing other things.
Traffic Stop and Arrest Violations
Another kind of misconduct occurs when an officer stops your vehicle without any reasonable suspicion that you were violating the law. It is not necessary that the suspicion was connected with a DUI for a DUI stop to be legal, but there must have been cause to think you were committing a traffic violation or crime. Also note that, even at a Sobriety Checkpoint, there are strict rules that officers must follow, which if violated, can compromise gathered evidence.
Not only must there be reasonable suspicion to make a stop, there must also be probable cause before an arrest can validly be made.
Evidence gained by violating the CHP Code of Honor may render it inadmissible in court, and even when admissible, can become highly suspect. Mistakes, oversights, and flagrant violations of state law, the U.S. Bill of Rights and the CHP’s own self-imposed high standards can all become a tool for your DUI defense attorney at the trial.
Need a DUI lawyer? Call Los Angeles DUI attorney Jon Artz today at 310-820-1315.