February 5, 2008 By Wallin & Klarich

Our firm handled a case recently where a defendant was stopped for Driving Under the Influence in a mall parking lot. The officer cited as the reason for initially stopping the defendant the fact that the defendant “rolled” through a stop sign posted in the mall’s parking lot – i.e., our client did not come to a full and complete stop at the stop sign. When the client was stopped, it was determined that he was under the influence of alcohol, and he was arrested. The District Attorney initially offered that our client should plead guilty or no contest to DUI charges and pay a steep fine and attend alcohol classes, and be on probation for three years.

After reviewing the relevant law, we found that the Vehicle Code does not impose a duty upon a driver to stop at a stop sign posted on private property.

Our office retained an investigator to investigate the property, and we obtained certified copies of the deed to the mall parking lot, which showed conclusively that the parking lot was owned by a private entity. Our investigator also took photographs of the mall’s parking lot entrances, and, especially, the signs showing that the parking lot was “private property” thereby negating any inference of mistake.

After our attorneys filed a written motion to suppress evidence – citing the fact that the stop was conducted illegally on private property – the District Attorney agreed to dismiss all DUI charges against our client. No probation. No classes. No fine. Nothing. Case dismissed.

While certainly no one condones ignoring a stop sign, whether posted on private property or public property, and failing to stop at a sign could give rise to civil liability if there is an accident and someone is hurt, the Vehicle Code does not permit an officer to stop and cite a person simply for failing to stop at a stop sign on private property.

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