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Watch Out For 4th of July DUIs

Celebrating Independence Day is something Americans look forward to with great anticipation

Parades, fireworks, and the backyard barbecue are staples of this iconic holiday. So are alcoholic beverages. In some areas, like Nogales, AZ, city council members are voting against serving alcoholic beverages at public events on the 4th. Citizens concerned with the messages that children get about drinking during such events would like to see the practice stopped and 4th of July DUIs reduced.

Sobering Facts

It is not surprising that more people would like to see alcohol banned from public celebrations of Independence Day. One only has to look at the rate of DUI traffic violations across the United States during this holiday to see that there is a serious problem. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has provided statistics showing that between 2007 and 2011 nearly 40% of all deaths due to vehicle crashes occurred during the 4th of July.

In 2015 the Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety put out a report stating that during the 4th of July weekend, 443 people were arrested for driving while under the influence. 34% of those people had a blood alcohol content of .15 or higher. With a blood alcohol content that high, studies have found that those arrested were 380 times more likely to be in a fatal crash.

Arizona has some of the toughest DUI penalties in the country, yet nearly 60% of the fatal crashes during 2013 – 2015 were alcohol related. Hundreds of non-fatal accidents involved alcohol as well. Even though DUI penalties are stiff, driving while under the influence remains one of the major causes of accidents on Arizona roadways, indeed, national highways.

The Penalties of Driving Under the Influence

When you get your Arizona driver’s license, you automatically consent to testing for blood alcohol concentration or drug content if you are stopped under suspicion of driving while intoxicated. This Implied Consent Law applies to all Arizona drivers.

Erratic or reckless driving, driving over the speed limit, and weaving in and out of traffic can all be indications the driver is intoxicated. Even driving too slow can signal that there may be a problem. When a law enforcement officer pulls a driver over and suspects alcohol or drugs are impairing driving, the driver must then consent to a blood or breath test. The breath is analyzed, and blood, urine or other bodily substances can be tested for the presence and concentration of alcohol or drugs.

Refusing the test will result in a one year suspension of the driver’s license. If consent is given and the test shows a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or more, driving privileges will be lost for 90 days.  The driver will not be allowed to drive until completion of alcohol or drug screening. Only then may the person receive a restricted permit or have their license reinstated.

Forget About Drinking If You’re Under 21

Arizona’s legal age for drinking is 21. If you are under the drinking age and pulled over, you should be aware that any alcohol found in your system is grounds for losing your driving privileges. That’s a stiff price to pay if you had hopes of being an independent driver.

On the other hand, the possible outcomes of severe injury or death as a result of driving while intoxicated are even stiffer penalties. Young people have had their dreams dashed as a result of life-altering injuries, and some have had their lives cut short. Others live with the constant guilt of having been the cause of an accident with horrible consequences.

A No-Tolerance State

Arizona laws are very intolerant of driving under the influence. Depending on blood or breath alcohol content, first-time offenders can expect to spend between 1 and 45 days in jail. In addition, their vehicles will need to be equipped with a certified ignition interlock device, they will need to have alcohol screenings and participate in education and/or treatment and incur fines between $1,500 – $4,000.

Hopefully those who are stopped the first time will learn their lesson well because second-time offenders will get a jail sentence ranging from 90 – 180 days. They will also lose their license for a year and perform community service. They will wind up back in treatment and still have the certified ignition interlock device to monitor their alcohol use.

There are people who choose to drink and drive on revoked or suspended licenses. The penalties at this level of offense include prison time, in addition to the other penalties.  This category is called aggravated DUI.

Enjoy the 4th But Choose Transportation Carefully

Independence Day is a time for exuberant celebration. If you know your celebration may include inebriation, make plans to have a sober ride home. Have a designated driver, call a taxi or Uber, or just stay put and sleep it off; whatever it takes to keep yourself from getting behind the wheel or keeps you from riding with an intoxicated driver.

Of course, you may choose not to drink for the holiday, but that doesn’t mean others will forego alcoholic beverages. If you are going to be on the road this holiday, be extra diligent. Pay attention to the drivers around you and expect the unexpected. By heightening your awareness, you may avoid an accident.

Accidents do happen sometimes, no matter how careful you are. In such a circumstance, you may need legal representation to help you make your case. Matthew Lopez Law, PLLC stands ready with expertise and experience to help you through the process. With compassion, understanding, and resources at your disposal, we will work for a fair and timely resolution.

Wishing everyone a safe and jubilant celebration!

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