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Can Police Wait Outside of a Bar?


Going to a local bar on a Friday or Saturday night to blow off some steam, celebrate a big promotion, or enjoy a night on the town with friends is everyone’s right. Of course, to avoid a DUI, you’ll have to consider your options: 1) keep it to two drinks, 2) choose a designated driver, 3) call a cab or Uber, or 4) walk home.

For those contemplating driving to a bar, the presence of cops can be a cause for concern, and understandably so. There are instances where police officers wait outside bars or venues that serve alcohol to target intoxicated drivers. Is this legal and does it amount to entrapment? We discuss more in our blog below. 

Can Cops Wait Outside of Bars?

Can the police park outside of a bar, and wait for patrons to leave so they can pull them over for DUI? No law prevents cops from waiting outside of bars, and police officers can patrol areas near bars and other venues for intoxicated drivers. 

This is a common practice and happens more in some jurisdictions than others. Bars don’t like it when their businesses are targeted because having a patrol car parked outside of their establishment is just bad for business, but that doesn’t stop police from parking across the street, or half a block up the road.

So, yes, police are legally able to wait outside of a bar, watch a person walk outside staggering to their vehicle, get in their car and drive off, then pull them over on suspicion of DUI. However, they can’t just randomly pull people over for suspicion of DUI and must have reasonable suspicion to do so.

Is It Entrapment If Police Officers Wait Outside a Bar?

No, it is only considered entrapment if a police officer encourages you to commit a crime. If you are at a bar, the officer would likely need to pressure you to drink and then operate a vehicle while under the influence. 

If the police officer simply hangs outside of a bar, it may not be enough to argue for entrapment. 

Orange County & Big Cities Often Have Cops Hanging Out in Bar Districts

If you live in one of the safer cities in Orange County, a lot of the cops are just bored. They just might camp out at a bar, club, or college dorm in hopes of catching drunk drivers. However, in more dangerous neighborhoods where the police have to deal with a lot of gang violence, they have better things to do than wait in front of bars.

If the local police have enough to do, they aren’t usually harassing anyone unless they are blatantly breaking the law; it all depends on the location of the bars that you visit and the crime in that neighborhood.

Police Officers Still Required to Make Lawful Stops

For the police stop to be lawful, the person who just left a bar must be exhibiting signs of intoxication (e.g. staggering), and then get into a vehicle and drive away, or they must commit a traffic offense after leaving (e.g. failed to use their turn signal, failed to turn on their headlights, ran through a red light, etc.), this way they can be legally stopped by the police.

If you don’t want to get arrested for DUI, it’s best to have a designated driver or call a cab, otherwise, when you walk out of a bar with your keys in hand, you could be their next target.

Arrested for DUI outside of a bar? Know your rights, contact an Orange County DUI defense attorney from the Law Offices of Virginia L. Landry, Inc. for a free case evaluation!

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