Can you get arrested on suspicion of DUI if you are driving on private property? Simply put, yes.
Division 11 of the California Vehicle Code covers the rules of the road which includes the laws regarding DUI. California Vehicle Code section 21001 articulates the scope of Division 11: “The provisions of this division refer exclusively to the operation of vehicles upon the highways, unless a different place is specifically referred to.” Additionally, the California Vehicle Code chapter for which DUI law are articulated states, “[t]he provisions of this chapter apply to vehicles upon the highways and elsewhere throughout the State unless expressly provided otherwise.”
Ronald Dean Arnold Malvitz was arrested for DUI while driving under the influence in a privately owned locked storage facility. He argued that since the law for DUIs, California Vehicle Code section 23152, falls within Division 11, he could not be charged with DUI because he was not on a highway. The issue made its way to the California Court of Appeals in People v. Malvitz.
In its opinion, the court mentioned that prior versions of California Vehicle Code section 23152 made it illegal to drive drunk “upon a highway or upon other than a highway areas in which are open to the general public.” Section 23152 was amended in 1982 and the language referring to location was deleted. The court opined 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 concluded that it was the legislative intent to prevent drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs, who always pose a threat and are extremely dangerous, from driving anywhere in California including on private property.