Many people believe that they cannot be arrested and charged with DUI if they were driving under the influence on private property, and that only driving on public property is illegal. While it is true that all states have laws in place regarding driving under the influence on public roads or public property, private property is trickier because the term itself can be interpreted in several different ways. Further, not all state laws are clear about exactly what constitutes private property.
For instance, let’s assume you’ve had one too many alcoholic beverages and decide to drive down to your local corner grocer which is privately owned, meaning the building and the parking lot are titled in the name of the store’s owner—who also happens to be a friend of yours. You might believe that all the stars are aligned in your favor, and that the local police officer is not within his rights to stop you in the parking lot as you weave your way around other cars.
By definition, the parking lot is private property, however since it is also open to everyone, and the public can enter and exit at will, public law enforcement personnel have the legal right to investigate and arrest a person in this private parking lot—if there is probable cause—even if you are simply sitting in your car and waiting until you feel steadier before you drive on home. Other examples of private property which might not actually be off limits to police officers who suspect a drunk driver are stadiums and parking areas surrounding the stadium, golf course roads, and dirt trails which are located on privately owned land.
Immediate Control of Property
Some state laws dictate that police officers are not able to enter private land or roads if the owner can be shown to have immediate control of that property. Suppose your best friend owns twenty acres, part of which is used for riding ATVs or motorcycles. He invites friends over and everyone is drinking and having a good time. Assuming the owner of the property is right there on the premises, is fully aware of what is going on and can be considered to be supervising any activities taking place on his property, police are not allowed to come onto his property and arrest you for suspicion of DUI even if you happen to be totally drunk and are driving your car around in circles on the property. If you were engaged in the exact same behavior, and your friend was not on the property and may not have even known you were there acting crazy, then the law might favor the police officer coming onto the property to check things out. Of course that begs the questions as to how would the officer know whether or not the owner was present?
Even if the police officer determines he has the legal right to go onto private property and apprehend a DUI suspect, he must still have probable cause to do so, just like on public property. If witnesses see a suspect driving erratically, then that would be probable cause, or if the suspect just crashed into a parked car then the probable cause burden is met. What if a police officer sees a suspect driving erratically on a public road, however they pull onto private property and get out of the car? If the person remains out of the car, on private property, the police officer does not have the right to question them, however if they get back in the car within a short period of time and start the car, the officer may then have probable cause.
In short, it is not wise to believe that just because you are on private property you are immune from DUI arrest, and in today’s political climate regarding driving while under the influence there are actually few places you can legally drink and drive—or even sit in your car with the keys in the ignition. If you’ve been arrested for DUI, whether on public or private property, call our law firm to speak with an experienced Kansas DUI attorney immediately to discuss your specific situation.
CALL OVERLAND PARK DUI LAWYER STACEY L. SCHLIMMER TODAY!