Ask cops, and they'll tell you springtime is a great time for busting college kids for drunk driving. Thanks to generous grants and overtime pay—and honorary awards from organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving—cops have both the resources and the incentive to flood Orange County with patrol cars and roadside checkpoints this season. Four years ago, the Weekly interviewed Mike Fremont, one of Orange County's top DUI lawyers, about his specialty: getting folks unfairly arrested for driving drunk back behind the wheel. We caught up with Fremont for some fresh advice for folks who get pulled over by Orange County's finest.
What have you been up to since our last article appeared?
First of all, I'm still just as ruggedly handsome as I was four years ago. But I no longer work with Myles Berman's Top Gun DUI law firm. I have my own practice in San Diego—check out my website at notguiltydui.com. I handle Orange County cases all the time.
Has the law governing DUI arrests changed at all since then?
It's become a lot easier for the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to suspend your license. For a first-time offense, you lose your license for six months, and a second offense means you can't drive for a year. So the DMV is trying to suspend as many licenses as they can. The other big thing that's happened is there is a lot more grant money flowing around to police. There's much more money for officers' overtime and for setting up roadblocks, and for "swarming"—that's when police inundate a particular area with a bunch of patrol cars. DUI arrests are going up, because there are more officers and more checkpoints, not because there are more people drinking and driving. But this could change, because statistics show that police pull over thousands of people for only one or two arrests.
What areas are police swarming in Orange County these days?
Their favorite targets are the Block in Orange, the Irvine Spectrum, Main Street in Huntington Beach and anywhere in Newport Beach. Probably the worst place is around 19th Street and Newport Avenue in Costa Mesa. Cops are just waiting for people there all the time. If you go over the arches into Costa Mesa, be careful.
What's your advice to people who get pulled over?
First of all, don't drink and drive. Secondly, don't drive at night. Make sure everything works on your vehicle down to your rear license plate lights, because cops can use that as an excuse to make a stop. If a cop approaches you, be polite and give them your name. If they ask you for a field sobriety test, say, "No, thank you." Say you're not impaired. If they arrest you, you'll have to take a test at the station. Don't take the preliminary alcohol test. Ask them if the test is a preliminary alcohol screening test or an evidentiary test. If it's preliminary, say, "No thank you." If it's an evidentiary test, take it, because you have to take it.
What if a cop follows you home and tries to arrest you for DUI after you've arrived safely at your doorstep?
People don't realize this, but if you've been driving drunk—even if you've had a hit-and-run accident, and I'm not suggesting you do this—but then you make it home, you can yell, "Ollie, ollie oxen free!" You can stay in your house, and you don't have to come outside unless the police have a search warrant. They cannot arrest you in your house unless they have a warrant. One guy I represented got home and fell asleep. Even though he blew a .37 on his blood-alcohol test, the cops broke into his house to arrest him, so the case was dismissed.
Any other particularly egregious cases you can share?
I had a client who blew a .21. He hit a guy but made it home. The cops pushed through his wife to get to him. Case dismissed. Another client, a Navy serviceman, had a .13. He got in an accident after a party, spun out, hit a telephone pole, ran through his neighbor's fence and got a flat tire. Somehow, he got back to his apartment, and an hour later, the cops show up. The Navy guy sends a shipmate down to say he's the driver, but the cops say, "Nah, we found his ID; the car's not registered to you." So my client came down and admitted it was him, and he was found not guilty. Part of it was because the victim whose house he hit shows up to testify in a motorcycle outfit with skulls on his T-shirt. What's he thinking?
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When we profiled you last time, angry citizens denounced us for promoting reckless driving. Do you ever get yelled at for promoting drunk driving?
I'm not promoting drunk driving. I'm promoting the right to defend yourself in a court of law. I have seen cops lie in court with abandon, look at you from the witness stand and they know you know they are lying. I have seen people convicted by lying cops and bad evidence and machines that don't work. I've seen cases where they charged someone with a .26 and the retest said it was a .06, or where the blood in evidence wasn't my client's blood. Everybody has a right to an attorney and a right to have their case proven beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury.
Any special advice for the kids?
Sure. Go get drunk, and take a bus home, or have someone else give you a ride. If you're driving, don't drink and drive. Did I mention not to drink and drive?