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California Counties With the Most DUI Charges

California Counties With the Most DUI Charges

According to data from the California Department of Motor Vehicles, there were 124,141 DUI arrests in the state in 2019 (the most recent year available). These arrests are not evenly distributed among California counties, as some counties account for a disproportionate number of arrests. 

If you have recently been arrested for DUI in Sonoma County experienced DUI defense lawyer Amy Chapman can help you explore your legal options. Contact the Law Office of Amy Chapman to learn more about what to do after a DUI arrest in California.

Counties Near Santa Rosa With the Most DUI Arrests

DUI attorney Amy Chapman is based in Santa Rosa, so let’s look at the counties with the highest rates of DUI arrests in this region.

Sonoma County

Home to Santa Rosa, Sonoma County is not a statewide leader for DUI arrests. However, there have been significant DUI arrest numbers here over the years. Here is a look at DUI arrests in Sonoma County between 2015-2019, according to statistics from the California DMV:

  • 2015 – 2,640 arrests
  • 2016 – 2,469 arrests
  • 2017 – 2,380 arrests
  • 2018 – 2,322 arrests
  • 2019 – 2,382 arrests

While California DMV statistics only go back to 2019, DUI arrests in the area steeply declined in 2022. According to the Sonoma Index-Tribune, there has been a 48.7% decline in DUI arrests for 2022 compared to 2021.

Contra Costa County

In the East Bay, Contra Costa County also has a significant number of DUI arrests. Here is the breakdown of Contra Costa County DUI arrests from 2015 to 2019:

  • 2015 – 3,173 arrests
  • 2016 – 2,910 arrests
  • 2017 – 2,639 arrests
  • 2018 – 2,725 arrests
  • 2019 – 2,717 arrests

Alameda County

Alameda County is directly southwest of Contra Costa County. This county is across the Bay from the City and County of San Francisco. Here is an overview of DUI arrests in Alameda County:

  • 2015 – 5,319 arrests
  • 2016 – 5,478 arrests
  • 2017 – 4,820 arrests
  • 2018 – 5,172 arrests
  • 2019 – 5,123 arrests

Sacramento County

Sacramento County has the highest rate of DUI arrests of all counties that are near Santa Rosa. This is to be expected, as Sacramento is the largest major city in the region. Here is a breakdown of Sacramento’s DUI arrests from 2015 to 2019:

  • 2015 – 5,059 arrests
  • 2016 – 4,574 arrests
  • 2017 – 3,445 arrests
  • 2018 – 4,002 arrests
  • 2019 – 4,625 arrests

San Mateo County

Located just south of San Francisco, San Mateo County accounts for a significant portion of DUI arrests in the area:

  • 2015 – 2,547 arrests
  • 2016 – 2,511 arrests
  • 2017 2,281 arrests
  • 2018 – 2,364 arrests
  • 2019 – 2,269 arrests

DUI Checkpoints in California

DUI checkpoints are legal at the federal level in the United States, but they are prohibited at the state level in 12 states. California is one of the 38 states that permit sobriety checkpoints. Driving while intoxicated should always be avoided at all costs, but even responsible and sober drivers should be aware of DUI checkpoint laws and how to conduct themselves when they encounter one.

California DUI Checkpoint Laws

California’s DUI checkpoint laws are outlined in Title II, Chapter 19 of the California Code of Regulations. At DUI checkpoints in California, drivers can be detained for short periods without probable cause. Police officers are also required to follow certain rules when working at DUI checkpoints:

  • A supervising officer must oversee the checkpoint and make sure that all officers are following the rules.
  • Drivers must be stopped in a random way, such as every third car.
  • Checkpoints can only be placed in areas with high rates of drunk driving arrests or accidents.
  • Safety precautions must be in place, including clearly visible roadblocks, flashing lights, and warning signs.
  • The supervising officer is required to use “good judgment” to determine the duration of a roadblock and to ensure roadblocks do not overly inconvenience drivers.
  • Drivers may be detained for as long as law enforcement needs to ask questions and evaluate the driver for intoxication.
  • DUI checkpoints must be publicly announced in advance through the local news and police department websites.  

What Happens During a DUI Checkpoint?

Drivers who approach DUI checkpoints are legally required to comply with all officer instructions. If your vehicle is selected to be stopped at a DUI checkpoint, a police officer will approach the vehicle and ask for your registration and driver’s license. Officers also often ask questions to look for signs of intoxication. Some of the signs they are looking for include:

  • Smell of alcohol
  • Trouble answering questions
  • Slurred speech
  • Delayed movements
  • Alcohol or drugs within sight
  • Difficulty locating and giving the officer your license and registration

If the officer believes a driver has shown one or more signs of intoxication, they may ask the driver to agree to a field sobriety test, a breathalyzer test, or a DUI mouth swab test for drugs. Failing any of these tests could result in a DUI arrest. 

California law allows drivers to refuse to submit to sobriety tests at DUI checkpoints, but police officers can still make arrests if they believe there is sufficient evidence of DUI. If a driver is arrested on DUI charges, they no longer have the right to refuse a sobriety test, and refusing to do so can bring additional charges.

Are You Allowed to Turn Around to Avoid DUI Checkpoints in California?

California has no law that prohibits drivers from turning around to avoid an upcoming DUI checkpoint. However, this can only be done if it is a legal turn. Making an illegal U-turn to avoid a checkpoint will get you pulled over. 

Police are also prohibited from pulling someone over for turning around and must have additional probable cause, such as witnessing signs of drunk driving. If you follow all traffic laws and do not show signs of intoxication or another reason to be pulled over, you can turn around to avoid DUI checkpoints in California.

Common Legal Defenses to DUI Checkpoint Arrests

If you have recently been charged with driving under the influence (DUI) after being stopped at a checkpoint in California, you may be wondering how to proceed. Being charged with DUI is an extremely stressful experience and many people are unsure of how to respond to these charges. 

An experienced criminal defense attorney can review your case and help identify potential defenses to the charges. Not all DUI arrests have a defense that could get the charges dropped and in some cases, an attorney may recommend pleading guilty as part of a plea deal.

Some legal defenses for DUI checkpoint charges in California include:

  • The checkpoint was not clearly marked
  • There is evidence that the stop was not random, such as officers stopping a driver based on race
  • Officers at the checkpoint did not follow checkpoint rules
  • An officer improperly administered field sobriety tests
  • The DUI checkpoint was not publicly advertised
  • The driver’s 4th amendment rights were violated

If one or more of these defenses applies to your case, an experienced Santa Rosa DUI defense lawyer could potentially help you fight the charges.

Learn More From Santa Rosa DUI Defense Lawyer Amy Chapman

Santa Rosa DUI defense lawyer Amy Chapman helps clients in Santa Rosa and all of Sonoma County. Amy understands how to evaluate all details of a case and guide their client on the best legal path based on the facts. Contact Amy today to learn more about your options after a DUI arrest.

Related: The Consequences of Repeat DUI Offenses in California

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