DUI INSIDER: The arrest and jail

What we look for. What we can tell when we pull you over.

Skipping the whole mess before you go to jail. Going to jail anyway.

Roger Winslow, Vice President

Deputy Sheriffs’ Association of Santa Clara County


Lance Scimeca, President

Santa Clara County Correctional Peace Officers’ Association


DUI isn’t just a little lapse of judgment; it’s a serious crime with sometimes violent and tragic results. 


 What we look for. Please call 911 on your cell phone and give us a heads-up if you see any of this dangerous nonsense on the road. Your call will be an exception to the hands-free cell phone rule. You will be doing everyone a huge favor and quite possibly saving a life.

Driving behavior first.

·       DUI suspects swerve, straddle the lane line, drift across lanes and make wide turns.

·       They come to a screeching halt at a stop sign or light, stop way before the intersection or out into it. They just sit there at a green light.

·       They drive in opposing lanes, or the wrong way on a one-way street or even enter the freeway driving against traffic.

·       They are road-ragers. They speed, they tailgate, they pass unsafely.

 ·       They can be found passed out at a stop light or in line at your local fast-food drive-through. Yes, it really does happen.

·       They telephone without a hands-free set. They text while driving.

Now for the equipment violations. 

 ·       Driving without headlights at night or in the rain.

·       Cracked windows, stickers or objects blocking the front windshield.

·       No seatbelt, no child safety seats. No helmet for motorcyclists.

·       Expired license plate tabs. 

·       Driving without brake lights, license plate lights or backup lights.


What we can tell when we pull you over?

Can you turn off the car and get out easily, hand us your license and registration without fumbling, stand solidly without swaying or leaning on the car for support, speak clearly, respond to questions quickly and provide correct information?

 Skipping the whole mess before you go to jail.

 Seatbelts keep you safe: Californians rock at wearing our seatbelts, coming in at 95.5 percent, leaving the 86 percent national average in the dust.

Most people would survive a traffic collision if they had used their seatbelts. Ejections, partial ejections and occupants crashing around the inside of the car kill people most often. No one signs up to break the windshield with their face or be ejected onto the freeway through their car’s sunroof.

 Designated Drivers keep you out of the slammer: Appoint your designated driver as soon as you make plans for the party. Normal good judgment flies out the window when people start to drink.

 Treat your designated driver like royalty. Fill his or her car with gas and make dinner and soft drinks your treat. Yes, they are definitely allowed to order the steak or the lobster.

Remember that the designated driver isn’t the person who has had the least to drink. We call that person the drunk driver. Rather, it’s the person who has remained stone-cold sober the whole evening and can get friends home in one piece, and just wave at us when we are out on patrol.



Here’s what happens when DUI suspects check in to the Santa Clara County Main Jail.

• GRAND ENTRANCE IN HANDCUFFS: You’ll arrive in handcuffs in the back of a patrol car. The handcuffs will be locked behind your back. Securing them in the front would just give you a dangerous, edged metal weapon.

Depending on your attitude, you can walk in under your own power or be escorted in by anywhere from two to six deputy sheriffs.

As soon as you are past the double doors, a deputy will remove your handcuffs and replace them with shackles for your ankles and a waist belt with attached hand bindings.

• THE SMELL, OH, THE SMELL: You will immediately notice the intake-area smell. Although the area is kept clean, it’s impossible to mask the odors of many unwashed people and various bodily functions, each more disgusting than the last. There will be a hint of alcohol in the air because a large percentage of people who are arrested arrive drunk.

• CHECKING IN: Jail nurses will screen you medically, and then deputies will take your booking photo and your fingerprints and run your records.

Deputies will assign you to the “Misdemeanor, But Not Citable” category while you’re standing at the counter. You’ll stay until you make bail or see a judge.

If you’ve hurt or killed someone driving drunk or high, if it’s your fourth DUI or any DUI after a felony DUI, you’ll be in the felony category, which is another story entirely. We’re presuming for this story that you’re here on a misdemeanor charge, which is by far the most common.

• YOUR JAIL ACCOMMODATIONS: You will be assigned to one of two holding cells along with many other inmates. The cinderblock walls have telephones and the floor is rubberized. I will let you imagine why the floor is rubberized. 

 There is a set of two open-bay toilets. They have a clear view of the intake area filled with arrestees, jail deputies and arriving police officers with their prisoners.

DUI suspects need five to eight hours to sober up and regain their ability to care for their own safety.

Commit a crime, you get to visit us. Abide by the law, you can go home to a much nicer place. If you do decide to check in with us, you won't like it. 

 # # #

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