“The officer did not see me driving.” We hear this many times and are asked, “How can the officer arrest me?” When most people hear the phrase “driving under the influence/DUI,” they assume that “driving” is a key part of the charge. What many people do not realize is that in California, the law does not require a police officer to witness or see you driving before the officer can arrest you for DUI.
California does not require that an officer see you driving, “direct evidence” of driving, an officer can arrest you based on “circumstantial evidence” that you were driving. California police officers can legally use circumstantial evidence to determine whether someone has been driving. For example, let's say you've been at a party, you've had several drinks, and you feel sober enough to drive home. A few minutes into the drive, that last drink hits you, and you decide to pull off the road and sleep it off. The next thing you know an officer banging on your window awakens you. You explain that you weren't driving; you did the right thing and chose to pull over and stop driving. You'll probably be arrested and charged with DUI. It sounds unfair, but you've admitted drinking, and you certainly didn't carry your car to the spot where you stopped to slept it off… you obviously drove there, and if you're alone, with no other possible driver, you'll be arrested. It's circumstantial, no one saw you driving, but it's legally sufficient evidence for the officer to make the arrest for DUI.
It's always better to find another way home after drinking; that last drink may be entering your bloodstream and increasing your blood alcohol level. Take a cab, designate a sober driver, or find another way. Of course, if you're charged with DUI for any reason in Fresno, Madera, Hanford, Visalia or Porterville, whether or not an officer actually saw you driving, you'll need to get legal help immediately and contact an experienced DUI defense lawyer.