Across the nation and around the world, people who love Ireland are getting ready for this year’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

But how can someone ensure that a St. Patrick’s celebration stays celebratory – with no injuries and no arrests for driving under the influence (DUI)? You’re about to find out.

Any time you travel on a California street or highway, there’s a good chance that an impaired driver is on that street or highway with you. It’s even more likely on St. Patrick’s Day.

You’ll find some recommendations for avoiding legal trouble related to DUI this St. Patrick’s weekend.

WHAT CAN BE EXPECTED THIS ST. PATRICK’S WEEKEND?

St. Patrick’s big day this year is March 17th, a Saturday. Celebrants will begin the festivities – and begin driving – on Friday afternoon. A few will party right through until early Monday morning.

Here in Orange County and across southern California, you’ll see green beer in abundance, but you may also encounter DUI checkpoints, and you’ll probably see some flashing red lights.

Police agencies including the California Highway Patrol, the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, and police departments in Seal Beach, Newport Beach, Placentia, La Habra, Anaheim, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, and Costa Mesa will be out in force.

They’ll be looking for intoxicated drivers. Expect heightened, strict enforcement this year.

If you’re stopped for driving under the influence, the luck of the Irish probably won’t help you in southern California. Instead, you’ll need to contact an experienced Orange County DUI attorney – as quickly as possible.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration tells us that from 2011 through 2015, more than 250 DUI-related deaths were recorded across the nation on the St. Patrick’s Day holidays.

WHY IS THIS ST. PATRICK’S DAY A PARTICULAR CONCERN?

Orange County authorities are particularly concerned this year after a substantial spike in DUI arrests during the 2017 holiday season compared to 2016.

The California Highway Patrol arrested 936 motorists suspected of driving under the influence between December 29, 2017, and midnight on New Year’s Eve. That was a 22 percent increase over the same period in 2016, when the CHP made 767 DUI arrests.

The increase in DUI arrests was a pattern statewide throughout the 2017 holiday season.

During the Thanksgiving weekend, the CHP made 1,057 DUI arrests, compared with 902 in 2016. On Christmas weekend, CHP officers made 917 DUI arrests, compared to 621 in 2016.

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO CELEBRATE SAFELY?

In California, if you drive with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level at or above 0.08 percent – which for most people is about one beer or one glass of wine – you are over the legal limit.

If you celebrate St. Patrick’s Day by enjoying alcoholic beverages with friends, you must drink responsibly. You want to get home without being arrested or injured, so plan ahead.

California law enforcement officials recommend these simple suggestions to help drivers avoid accidents, arrests, and the other likely consequences of driving under the influence:

1. Plan in advance how you are going to get home. Confirm those plans before the big weekend.
2. If you ride with friends, assign a designated driver – a person you trust.
3. Leave the car keys at home.
4. Call a cab, call a sober friend or a relative, or use a rideshare service if you end up stranded or stuck without a ride.

Most drivers arrested in California for DUI will be first offenders facing a misdemeanor charge. That doesn’t mean they’ll be treated leniently.

WHAT PENALTIES CAN BE IMPOSED FOR A FIRST DUI CONVICTION?

The criminal penalties in California for a DUI misdemeanor conviction will depend on the driver’s age and the type of license the driver possesses.

The penalties are slightly different for drivers who are under 21, and the penalties are harsher for drivers who have commercial drivers’ licenses.

But for most adult drivers who hold a standard driver’s license, the penalties for a first-offense, misdemeanor DUI conviction in this state may include:

• a $390 to $1,000 fine
• up to six months in a county jail
• three to five years’ probation
• attendance at a court-ordered treatment program or alcohol and drug education class
• a one-to-ten-month driver’s license suspension (apart from any administrative license action)
• installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) on the convicted offender’s personal vehicle in four California counties and throughout the state starting in 2019

WHAT ABOUT “EXTRA-LEGAL” DUI PENALTIES?

Even if you’re not convicted of DUI, a DUI incident or arrest could mean paying for bail, vehicle repairs, and medical expenses.

You’ll need time off from work. You may also be dealing with legal fees, restitution fees, and considerably higher car insurance payments.

If you are convicted, you’ll also have to pay for your own DUI classes, for license reinstatement when your suspension concludes, and you’ll pay a monthly fee while serving probation.

And if driving is your job – or essential to it – you may need to look for other work.

All of those penalties can accompany a misdemeanor, first DUI conviction. Second and third convictions, as you would imagine, trigger even more serious consequences.

WHAT ABOUT CIVIL LIABILITY FOR DUI-RELATED DAMAGES?

An impaired driver who is responsible for injuries or fatalities may be sued by the victims for personal injury or for wrongful death in California’s civil courts.

A DUI conviction is persuasive proof of negligent driving in personal injury and wrongful death cases.

If you aren’t celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, remember that other motorists will be. Buckle up, and check your tire pressure, brakes, wipers, and lights before driving.

WHAT ARE THE DUI NUMBERS?

Intoxicated drivers cause thousands of collisions, serious injuries, and wrongful deaths. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says about 27 people a day – every day – die in DUI-related traffic collisions in the United States.

That figure increases considerably on St. Patrick’s Day, Halloween, July the Fourth, Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Eve.

If you drive into a sobriety checkpoint, be friendly and cooperative. You’ll likely pass through with no trouble.

WHERE CAN YOU TURN IF YOU’RE ARRESTED FOR DUI?

If you are charged with driving under the influence in Orange County – or anywhere in southern California – have an experienced Orange County DUI attorney protect your rights and fight on your behalf.

If your legal rights were infringed during your arrest, or if a breathalyzer result was inaccurate, your lawyer might be able to have a DUI charge reduced or entirely dismissed.

WHAT’S THE BEST ADVICE?

On the other hand, if the state’s case against you is persuasive and a DUI conviction is inevitable, your lawyer will seek alternative or reduced sentencing and bring the matter to its best possible outcome.

Don’t drink and drive. On St. Patrick’s Day or any other day. It’s the best advice.

But if you are charged with driving under the influence, you have the right to an attorney, and you have the right to fight the charge. When your freedom and future are at risk, get the legal help you genuinely need.