St. Patrick’s Day raises Drunk Driving Concerns

St. Patrick’s Day raises Drunk Driving Concerns

For more information please visit or call 1.800.NoCuffs

For more information please visit or call 1.800.NoCuffs

By Legal Analyst Darren Kavinoky

Los Angeles, CA–March 9, 2016–Unless you’be been hiding under a Shamrock, then you know St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner. While this is traditionally a jovial celebration, for some it can end in handcuffs and tragedy.

Per the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration NHTSA, over St. Patrick’s Day from 2009 to 2013, there were a total of 276 lives lost in drunk-driving crashes.

March 17th marks the eve when Irish pubs are brimming with loads of people drinking green beer. It’s also an annual DUI checkpoint bonanza. Think of St. Patrick’s Day the same way you would as tax day for accountants. Every year, police and law enforcement officials know it’s coming. They are on high alert and working overtime to keep everyone on the road alive.

As a criminal defense attorney, I’ve seen one too many people fall into a safety net trap on what should be a day of enjoyment and good cheer. How can you avoid spoiling your Luck o’ The Irish celebration this year?

As the founder of 1.800.NoCuffs, I can tell you first hand our firm sees a significant uptick in the aftermath of St. Paddy’s Day. While it may not be illegal to drink some alcohol and then drive, it is illegal to drive impaired. Impairment is determined in one of two ways:

1. You have consumed alcohol to the extent that you meet the legal definition of impairment. This doesn’t require any particular alcohol level to be reached. It’s just that you are unable to drive with the caution characteristic of a sober person as a result of drinking.

2. The second way you can run afoul is if you are above a .08 at the time of driving. (Less if you’re driving a commercial vehicle. And zero, if you’re on probation for a DUI). This is a bright line rule. It doesn’t matter if you are driving perfectly at a .08. The legislature says if you are above that limit at the time you are behind the wheel it is against the law.

When I was a little kid and it was Thanksgiving, my mom would cook a turkey that had this ridiculous bright orange button on the side that you pushed down before you stuck the turkey in the oven. You knew it was done cooking when that button would pop up. People don’t have those buttons. We don’t have anything that tells us, “Uh-oh. You’ve reached that magic limit so therefore you shouldn’t be behind the wheel.”

The bottom line is once you have had that first drink, you are in a compromised position to judge your condition and yet, you are the only one ultimately who is sitting in judgement of your condition. To quote a classic line from the 1960s TV series Lost In Space, “Danger, Will Robinson!”
As a lawyer, I know that a lot of “dolphins get caught in the net.” The safest way to avoid this even being a problem is to not drive after you’ve had anything to drink at all. Take some sort of public transportation or designate a driver.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration NHTSA the following statistics apply to impaired driving:

1. Alcohol-impaired motor vehicle crashes cost more than an estimated $37 billion annually.
2. In 2012, more than 10,000 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes – one every 51 minutes.

Having said that, as an attorney, if you do get caught in the St. Patty’s Day net, be sure to also exercise your rights responsibly.

1. Law enforcement officers have a tough job to do. Keep in mind that their job is hard every day but especially so on holidays like St. Patrick’s Day. If they pull you over be respectful. They have to make a snap decision on the side of the road, in the dark, with traffic whizzing by them. The practical, political and human reality is that they have more reason to arrest, then not.

2. You have the right to remain silent, but that does you no good unless you exercise that right! Be polite, but don’t incriminate yourself by oversharing. You can answer the necessary questions like giving the officer your name and your driver’s license. After that there’s nothing wrong with being polite but saying, “I would love to cooperate but my lawyer would kill me. So I’m just not going to answer any questions without my attorney here.” Then tell them to call 1.800.NoCuffs.

3. If you get pulled over and are asked to take a handheld breath screening test as a further form of a field sobriety test, know that it may be optional. In general, the pre-arrest breath screening test is usually optional, (some exceptions apply based on age and license status). If it is optional, it’s best to decline it because the breath tests are highly flawed.

4. Post arrest, under California law, you have impliedly consented to a test of your blood or breath if you are lawfully arrested and have been asked to take one by a police officer. If the driver declines to be tested post arrest, the consequences can vary but may include losing his/her driver’s license for a year or more!

5. TRAVELERS BE ADVISED: If you receive a DUI, certain courts will often order you to be present at your hearing. So out-of-towners should be well advised that they may be returning on another day if they drive under the influence.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all and please let me know if you find that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!

(Full permission is granted by author to reproduce and publish this article and media assets with reasonable edits).

Darren Kavinoky
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