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California Highway Patrol

Not long after cars appeared on California streets and highways, the need arose for traffic laws and specially trained police officers to enforce those laws. The California Vehicle Code followed. Thereafter, attorneys answered the call of citizens in need of lawyers to represent them before California traffic courts throughout the state. Additionally, it became evident that a statewide agency was required to license California drivers and automobiles. From that need the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) was formed.

The need for uniformity and consistency in enforcing California laws relating to automobiles became apparent amongst California law enforcement officers. These officers pioneered traffic enforcement and investigation techniques, while championing the cause of safer roads and highways. In 1929, the California Highway Patrol was formed as part of the Department of Motor Vehicles. Later, the California Highway Patrol organized into an agency separate from the Department of Motor Vehicles. However, the two agencies maintain a curiously close relationship in spite of the fact that undertrained and underqualified hearing officers of the California Department of Motor Vehicles Driver Safety Office are called upon to review the enforcement actions of Highway Patrol officers upon California citizens.

The certain problems of the DMV hearing officers relate to the fact that they sit as quasi judicial officers while having a dual role as prosecutors. Additionally, these hearing officers are not attorneys in spite of the fact they are called upon to apply rules of evidence as codified by the California rules of evidence and judicial opinions of the California Court of Appeal and California Supreme Court. In fact, no judge would allow a waiver of the obvious conflict of interest inherent in this institutional structure where non-lawyers are empowered to remove from a citizen the property right and independence each licensee possesses in their privilege to drive a car in California.

In 1954 the California Highway Patrol academy was opened on Meadowview Road in Sacramento. Subsequently, in 1976, the current Highway Patrol academy was opened on Reed Avenue in West Sacramento. As of 2008, the CHP academy is now a residential academy, lasting 26 weeks. It is acknowledged by law enforcement officials as providing the best training available for prospective law enforcement officers in California. In fact, many California law enforcement agencies send their recruit officers to the California Highway Patrol academy for their law enforcement training.

As of 2008, the California Highway Patrol consisted of more than 7,000 sworn officers stationed at more then 125 locations throughout California. The majority of officers are trained to operate the same law enforcement vehicle, which is presently a Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor. However, California Highway Patrol officers may drive an SUV, truck, fly a plane or helicopter, ride a motorcycle, bicycle, or horse. During their tours of duty, these officers wear either a tan uniform or a blue battle dress uniform (BDU). On each shoulder of a CHP officer's uniform is a patch which is blue and gold and bears the words "California Highway Patrol."

The recruit officers receive training in pursuit driving, defensive tactics, firearms training, accident investigation, criminal investigation, principles of criminal law, application of California criminal law, enforcement of the California Vehicle Code, driving under the influence (DUI) investigation, and report writing. All California Highway Patrol officers are trained to use the Alcosensor IV preliminary alcohol screening device and at least one evidential alcohol breath test machine such as the Intoxilyzer 5000 or the Draeger 7110 MK III-C.

Additionally, CHP officers are issued a California DUI Enforcement Manual at the academy and are responsible for knowing the information it contains. Topics covered in the DUI Enforcement Manual include DUI investigation and field sobriety testing (FST's). The field sobriety tests covered in the California Highway Patrol DUI enforcement manual include the battery of standardized field sobriety tests (SFST's) and "alternative" field sobriety tests (FST's).

It is the policy of the California Highway Patrol that the battery of standardized field sobriety tests be administered before an officer administers any "alternative" field sobriety tests. The battery of standardized field sobriety tests includes horizontal gaze nystagmus, the one leg stand, and the walk and turn. However, the horizontal gaze nystagmus test is actually an eye examination, not a test.

Additionally, the California Highway Patrol publishes a Preliminary Alcohol Screening Device Coordinator's Manual. This manual is issued to preliminary alcohol screening device coordinators who are responsible for checking the accuracy, calibrating, maintaining records, and otherwise maintaining the preliminary alcohol screening devices issued to California Highway Officers before they commence their tours of duty. Additionally, the PAS coordinators provide testimony in support of driving under the influence (DUI) prosecutions resulting from arrests made by California Highway Patrol officers throughout the state.

Feel free to call the office if you have any questions regarding driving under the influence in California.

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Robert Tayac's office may be reached at 415-552-6000, or 800-254-0000 between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. any day of the week and in an emergency at any time.

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