How to Avoid a DUI in the Desert – San Diego & Imperial County

How to Avoid a DUI in the Desert - San Diego & Imperial County

How to Avoid a DUI in the Desert – San Diego & Imperial County

San Diego & Imperial County Deserts

One of California’s beautiful natural resources is its deserts. If you take the 78 through San Diego and Imperial County, you’ll come across many desert stops. Places like Borrego Springs, Ocotillo Wells, and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

These locations are great for 4-wheeling, camping and experiencing the vast sand dunes. San Diego and Imperial County deserts are all on either state land or the Bureau of Land Management federal property.


San Diego & Imperial County Deserts During the COVID-19

Guidelines in place during the Coronavirus/COVID-19 have reminded us to social distance and stay safe. With many people getting creative during these times, San Diego and Imperial County deserts became popular destinations. The started to become popular spots to get away, drink, party, and ATV/4-wheel. However, the California Department of Parks and Recreation noticed the spike in people gathering in these deserts. This pushed them to begin policing the areas a lot more. The California Department of Parks and Recreation have been known to possess some very aggressive DUI officers, including Capt. Wissler’s and female officers Pitz and Kennedy-Feldhaus.


San Diego & Imperial County Desert Police Officers

Your idea of a good time may be to relax with a beer while watching the stars in the desert. However, the California Department of Parks and Recreation’s idea of a good time is a little different. Their idea of a good time is to make sure you do not drink and drive. The California Department of Parks and Recreation DUI officers like to conduct regular foot patrols. They do so with the intent of coming into contact with your vehicle while you’re in the possession of alcohol.

You could be parked on a hill sitting in your vehicle and officers will approach you and make contact. They know there’s a good chance some of the occupants in the vehicle will be in possession of alcohol. The California Department of Parks and Recreation officers may administer violations of these laws as probable cause and reasons for the contact:

  1. Title 14 California Code of Regulations Section 4326(a) – Posted Order – No Alcohol Outside of Campsite
  2. California Vehicle Code Section 23222(a) – Open container of alcohol in a vehicle
  3. Code Section 23152(a) – DUI


A Possible Situation

It could be dark and you’re not expecting the midnight foot cops that patrol the sand dunes. Maybe you have your truck running for the heater to keep warm. You accidently take your vehicle out of park to get out of 4-wheel drive before leaving causing your vehicle to move ever so slightly. It is not that you’re obstructing traffic or illegally parked. But you are holding your beer can a little too high and the reflective label catches the light.

Maybe you start to panic when you see the night officers with flashlights approaching, so you attempt to move your vehicle a little bit. You know you won’t be able to resist if they walk up to your vehicle, they will most likely open your driver’s side door and tell you to step out. They may claim that they saw a silver Coors Light beer can to see if you are drinking alcohol in violation of a California Code.

However, the San Diego or Imperial County DUI prosecutor attorney is going to have to prove that you were Driving.


What to do Now

Tell the officer you were not going anywhere, that you were just taking your vehicle out of 4-wheel drive. You have to make sure after making this statement that you do not let your vehicle move and that you never admit to driving to the location. In this situation, having a sober passenger who intends to drive the vehicle home may help. However, sober or not, such a passenger still cannot be seen drinking alcohol.

In this certain situation, there is a good chance that the person sitting in the driver’s seat is going to be asked to perform field sobriety tests and potentially get arrested. T officer also may tell the person in the driver’s seat that they are also required to provide either a blood or breath sample. The officer will try to get you to blow into the big Title 17 breath test machine on site because the officer does not want to go all the way into El Centro for a blood test and then have to drive back.


What to Remember

You have the right to have the officer administer only a breath test or only a blood test. It is your right to not submit to both.

You do not have to do a Preliminary Alcohol Screening (breath) Test unless you are under 21 or on probation. That is a small PAS breath test gadget or device which is not the same as the big breath test machine option.

California’s Implied Consent Law, Vehicle Code Section 23612(d)(1) states that if the subject requests a certain test (blood or breath test), the officer SHALL have that test performed. It’s your right and the officer’s statutory obligation to follow the law by administering the test of your choice.

Although, if you do not choose a test, the officer can put you down as a refusal which could potentially lead to a one or more year license suspension without any possibility of driving.

Requesting for a blood test, you should understand that the officers will try to figure out a way to get you to change your mind and to just do a breath test. This is all in hopes to avoid the long drive to and from Imperial County’s blood testing locations.

You have to be informed of the Trombetta Advisement. This is that the breath sample given is not retained and cannot be retested. You are still entitled to a blood test if you request.


Breath Test Defense

Do you have a possible breath test defense?

If you are put in the back of a patrol car while the officers attempt to figure out a way to talk you out of your blood test request, you may be alone with the doors closed and windows up.

Without an officer observing you in the back seat, if they try and test you right away or within a few minutes of removing you from the vehicle, they will be committing a California Code of Regulation Section 1221.1 (b)(1) violation . This can rebut the presumption of the reliability of the breath test results and at a minimum avoid a DMV administrative per se license suspension action.

While alone in the back – and not observed, the officer would not know if you had a slight regurgitation of gas or slight burp. Making that a violation of the regulation.


“The breath sample shall be collected only after fifteen continuous minutes during which time the subject must not have ingested alcoholic beverages or other fluids, regurgitated, vomited, eaten, or smoked.”


 First Things First

When trying to figure out how to avoid a DUI in the desert, getting a DUI attorney is the first thing to do. There’s many factors depending on the facts.

  • Whatever the evidence is, your lawyer can serve as an important role in the Possible Outcome of your DUI.




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