Often is the case that a person gets pulled over on suspicion of driving drunk in a private parking lot. And inevitably the question arises, “can a person get arrested for a California DUI if they’re not on a public road?”
Unfortunately, the answer is “yes.”
Division 11 of the California Vehicle Code sets forth the “rules of the road” which includes California’s laws against drunk driving. California Vehicle Code section 21001 says, “The provisions of [Division 11] refer exclusively to the operation of vehicles upon the highways, unless a different place is specifically referred to.” The Code also states, “[t]he provisions of this chapter apply to vehicles upon the highways and elsewhere throughout the State unless expressly provided otherwise.”
Think this language limits the place that someone can be arrested for a DUI to highways? That’s what Ronald Dean Arnold Malvitz thought.
Mr. Malvitz was arrested for driving under the influence in a privately owned locked storage facility. He argued that he could not be charged with a California DUI because he was not on a highway.
The California Court of Appeals disagreed. The court noted that prior versions of California’s DUI laws made it illegal to drive drunk “upon a highway or upon other than a highway areas in which are open to the general public.” In 1982, the language in the law referring to location was deleted and that “the statute that prohibits driving under the influence of alcohol and/or any drug has emerged unencumbered with any language restricting its reach.”
The court held that it was the legislative intent to not restrict the breadth of the California’s DUI law. As a result, the court concluded that California’s DUI laws should prohibit driving under the influence anywhere in California including private property.