Hopefully, you had a pleasant Fourth of July holiday this year and got to spend time outdoors with family and friends — not locked up in a jail cell on DUI charges. For about 1,000 Californians, the latter was how they passed at least part of the long holiday weekend recently.
That is according to the California Highway Patrol, which reported arresting 998 people suspected of drinking and driving between the Friday evening before the Fourth and the Monday evening after the holiday. The surge in arrests was part of a Maximum Enforcement Period, an operation that CHP often performs during holiday weekends in which extra officers go on duty with the mission to arrest as many people on DUI charges as possible.
Interestingly, CHP made almost exactly the same number of DUI arrests (997) over the Fourth of July holiday weekend last year.
Making the roads safer?
Authorities say they conduct these campaigns to make the streets and highways safer. And to some extent, they probably work. But when law enforcement is under pressure to arrest as many drivers for drinking and driving as they can in just 78 hours, they are bound to make mistakes. They can fail to calibrate or administer a breath test device properly. Or misjudge a driver’s performance on field sobriety tests. They might even mistake the symptoms of a disability for signs of intoxication.
When a police officer falsely arrests someone for DUI, you would think the case would be quickly dismissed. But for those who do not have a defense attorney, it is not so simple. Judges and juries give police testimony great weight. And the defendant, unfamiliar with criminal law procedure, might not realize that their rights had been violated or that the prosecutor’s case against them is weak. An unjust conviction can result.