Under state law, there is a general requirement that warrantless detentions must be based on a reasonable and articulable suspicion that a crime has taken place or is about to take place. However, the community caretaker doctrine is an exception to this requirement, whereby the courts have given the police the authority to act (in certain cases) to help distressed citizens. A knowledgeable Orange County drunk driving defense attorney can further advise you with regard to the specifics of the doctrine as it relates to your case.
With respect to drunk driving cases, the implementation of the community caretaker doctrine has been specifically demonstrated in a variety of cases, such as the case in which a defendant was sleeping on the side of the road with the engine still running and the headlights turned off. The officer knocked on the window; however, the defendant did not wake up. As a result, this caused the police officer to proceed to enter the vehicle by opening the car door, at which time he realized that the defendant was, in fact, in a drunken state.
Given those set of facts, state supreme courts have found that the police officer’s imposition in those types of cases was lawful under the community caretaker doctrine. Courts have clearly expressed a three-pronged standard for reviewing community caretaker investigations. First of all, provided that there are objective, specific, and articulable facts whereby a veteran officer would believe that a citizen needs his or her assistance or is in danger, then that officer has the right to stop and investigate.
Next, if the officer deems that the citizen does need assistance, he or she may proceed to take the appropriate actions needed in order to provide the necessary assistance or mitigate the danger.
Finally, you should note that once the police officer has ensured the citizen’s safety and believes that he or she is no longer in need of assistance, any actions that the officer takes beyond that point will constitute a seizure. If you need an experienced Orange County drunk driving attorney, please call the DUI Law Offices of Chad Maddox today for a free consultation.