A holiday in Southern California always means heightened DUI enforcement and a number of law enforcement “task forces” across the state comprised of officers on the prowl to stop and arrest motorists suspected of driving under the influence. Labor Day this year was no different, and in fact, it was a preview of what drivers throughout Southern California can expect as fall approaches, and we move into the holiday season.

Statewide, at least 38 traffic fatalities were recorded across California over the Labor Day weekend, and more than 2,000 drivers were arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence, according to the California Highway Patrol (CHP). The Labor Day 2016 figures are about the same as the California DUI statistics for last year’s Labor Day weekend when 35 people died in traffic collisions, and 2,163 drivers were placed in custody for suspicion of driving under the influence.

WHAT WERE THE LABOR DAY DUI STATISTICS IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA?

This year in Los Angeles County, two fatalities were reported and 382 motorists were arrested for suspicion of DUI from 6:00 p.m. on Friday through 6:00 a.m. on Labor Day Monday. Those figures represent fewer fatalities than 2015 but more DUI arrests in Los Angeles County over the holiday weekend. The 64 DUI arrests and the single traffic fatality in San Diego County this year are a slight decline from the 53 DUI arrests – and the two fatalities – recorded in the county over the 2015 Labor Day weekend.

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Precise figures for this year’s Labor Day DUI arrests in Orange County are not yet available – they may be available by the time you are reading this – but last year, 73 motorists were charged with driving under the influence in Orange County over the Labor Day weekend. In 2014, the total was 66 arrests. With more holidays ahead, it’s good to know that if you are charged with driving under the influence in Orange County – or anywhere else in this part of the state – you can rely on the advice and services of an experienced Orange County DUI attorney for the legal help you’ll need.

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU ARE STOPPED IN TRAFFIC BY THE POLICE?

If you are stopped by a law enforcement officer, arrested, and charged with driving under the influence in Southern California this holiday season, the courts will not be lenient – even if it’s Christmas Eve. Here is what every driver in the state of California needs to know about driving under the influence to avoid going to jail – or to the ER or the morgue – during this holiday season:

  • The “legal” limit in this state is a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.08 percent. For most people, that is about the equivalent of one 12-ounce beer or one six-ounce glass of wine – provided you weigh over a hundred pounds. The best advice is simply this: don’t drink and drive.
  • If a police officer stops you in traffic, pull over to the right – quickly, safely, and away from traffic. Be calm and polite. Roll down your window, turn off the engine, and place your hands atop the steering wheel. If the police officer asks for your driver’s license and vehicle registration, present them.
  • If you select a designated a driver, be certain that it is a person you know well and trust absolutely. In Southern California, alternative rides-for-hire such as limousines, taxis, and buses are abundant, and you can also take advantage of the ride-sharing apps and services offered by companies like Lyft and Uber.
  • Do not consider riding a bicycle as one of your potential alternatives. In this state, bike riders must adhere precisely to the same rules of the road that automobile drivers must obey. “Biking under the influence” is against the law in this state, and it is just like a DUI charge.

You should also know that with Labor Day behind us now and the holidays getting closer, it’s the time of year when California’s law enforcement agencies conduct more sobriety checkpoints. Always be courteous and polite to the law enforcement officers at a sobriety checkpoint, but if you need to, stand up for your rights. After identifying yourself and presenting your driver’s license and vehicle registration, you have the right to remain silent, and you have the right to have an attorney present during any questioning. There is never any need to be argumentative with a police officer. Be polite, but be firm regarding your rights.

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At a sobriety checkpoint or during a traffic stop, if a law enforcement officer asks you to blow into a breathalyzer or to take a field sobriety test, the law in California gives you the right to decline that request – and you should decline it – unless you are under 21 or on probation for an earlier driving under the influence conviction. However, if you are 21 or over and not on probation, your legal right to decline a DUI test ends at the moment when you are arrested. When you are in police custody, you must submit to a DUI test if requested or risk additional criminal penalties.

WHAT IF POLICE OFFICERS WANT TO SEARCH YOUR VEHICLE?

If the police want to search your vehicle, once again, be polite, but do not give the police your consent for a search. Make the officers obtain a warrant. Most traffic stops are made for minor reasons like a busted light or an expired license plate, but if you are pulled over by an officer on a holiday, you are probably suspected of driving under the influence. Again, do not answer any questions, because the officer’s questions are aimed at gathering enough evidence against you to make an arrest.

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A DUI charge is not a DUI conviction or its equivalent, but it does mean that in Southern California, you’ll need the services of an experienced Orange County DUI attorney who can safeguard your legal rights, examine the details of the case and the charge against you, and advocate vigorously for justice on your behalf. Of course, you can avoid all of these legal difficulties over the holidays and throughout the year simply by not drinking and driving. Do not put yourself and others at risk this holiday season. It’s just not worth it.