In what has become a successful sting operation by the Orange County sheriff’s office, five convicted DUI offenders were arrested last week through a new and controversial tactic designed to further punish those found guilty of driving while under the influence. The operation took place at the Harbor Justice Center in Newport Beach and targeted DUI defendants who continue to drive despite having their driver's licenses suspended. In California, a person who is charged with DUI has ten days from the day of their arrest to meet with their assigned drivers’ safety office to plead their case, or their driver’s license is automatically suspended. The officers involved in the Harbor Justice Center sting focused on defendants for which they knew had suspended licenses resulting from alleged DUI offenses and attempted to catch them driving.
How Did The Sting Operation Work?
Officers with the Orange County sheriff’s office went to the Harbor Justice Center in Newport Beach last Thursday in plain clothes. The officers waited for DUI defendants to appear for their scheduled court dates. After they appeared before a judge, officers in plain clothes would follow the DUI defendants to their vehicles and determine whether or not the defendant would drive away from themselves. If they did, they would be driving on a suspended license, at which point they were cited at the scene and their vehicles were impounded for 30 days.
The operation resulted in five citations and a costly additional bill for the DUI defendants that were caught.
Could This Be Entrapment?
The short answer is yes, but the chances are slim. Entrapment for any crime can be difficult to prove, but with the evidence on your side and a skilled attorney, anything is possible. Entrapment is regularly misunderstood to be considered an automatic case dismissal as a result of law enforcement playing some sort of trick on the defendant. This is not the case. Entrapment occurs when the person who is being charged with a crime only committed a criminal offense because the police lured them into doing so. In other words, a crime was committed, but the police are responsible for it. When examining the incident at Harbor Justice Center, the facts do not support a claim that the police were responsible for the DUI defendants who were charged with driving on a suspended license.
Having assisted countless DUI defendants in Orange County over the last several years, I can say that there are several opportunities for evidence that would normally be used to convict a DUI defendant to be used for their defense, and different case circumstances lead to different options for different defendants, so the possibility for an entrapment defense for some may be a legitimate possible defense strategy. For the men and/or women at Harbor Justice Center, chances are that they are not in a position to realistically claim that their incident was entrapment. How would the defendants have gotten home had the officers decided not to perform this sting operation? Hard to argue with that.
There is something to be said for the fact that many of those who are arrested for driving while under the influence that goes to Harbor Justice Center are there to try and stay in compliance with their issued violation. If the defendants were unable to go to their court date, they would likely receive punishment and may even have a warrant issued for their arrest. By citing DUI defendants and having their vehicles towed while they are at the courthouse, there is a chance that those defendants only drove because they felt that they had no other choice. Don’t get me wrong, a DUI offense is a serious crime that can result in serious injuries and death, but to penalize defendants for showing up right before Christmas is a little low.
Will These Operations Become Frequent?
It is unknown whether or not the Orange County sheriff’s office plans to regularly participate in these types of operations, but it would make sense if they did. With a relatively small amount of manpower, the handling officers were able to easily catch DUI defendants driving with a suspended license. In my experience, many of those who do receive a DUI and have their license suspended continue to drive as they have limited options for transportation to work, school, and other important responsibilities.
Those planning to fight their Orange County DUI or driving on suspended license charges can call my law offices in Newport Beach, California to obtain a free confidential case evaluation. If you are planning to fight your charges, you can count on our experience with more than 10,000 clients and our selection as TOP OC Metro Attorneys for 2013.
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