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Holiday Seasons Means More DUIs

The temperatures are dropping and the holiday season is upon us.

Whether it’s Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s Eve, for many people, this is a time of joy that’s jam-packed with homecomings, parties, and gatherings of friends and family.  But, beneath the twinkling veneer of tinsel, ornaments, and tea lights lurks an unfortunate truth—this time marks the country’s peak period for DUI-related arrests, crashes, and fatalities.

In America, unfortunately, more time off spent socializing typically leads to higher rates of drinking, which, in turn, increases the number of drunk drivers on the road at any given time.

Drunk driving is always dangerous and ill-advised. But, during the holidays, you run an even higher risk of being arrested or causing a potentially fatal accident.

Put simply, ‘tis the season to think before you drink and drive.

Holiday DUI Statistics

There’s a reason why December has been designated as National Impaired Driving Prevention Month—more arrests, accidents, and deaths occur during this time than at any other point in the year.

On average, 25 people are killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes each day of December. And, as you might imagine, adults between the ages of 21–35 are by far the most likely age segment to drive impaired.

And this problem isn’t getting better. From 2013 to 2018, NBH measured the percentage change in Christmas holiday-related crash fatalities involving alcohol only increased:

  • Christmas – 162.5%
  • New Year’s Eve/Day – 56.5%
  • Thanksgiving – 11.3%
  • Independence Day – 3.8%
  • Memorial Day – -9.2%
  • President’s Day – -18.3%
  • Labor Day – -27.8%
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Day – -28.9%
  • Columbus Day – -38.5%

Major Holidays of Concern

Although the holidays could be considered a 45-or-so day period, the vast majority of drunk-driving incidents come right before or follow closely after the actual holiday:

  • Blackout Wednesday – Sometimes referred to as “Drinksgiving” or “Whiskey Wednesday,” the day before Thanksgiving is considered to be one of the most dangerous times of the year to be on the road due to the uptick of motorists and of drunken drivers. According to NHTSA, from 2013-2017 there were over 800 fatalities due to car crashes alone on this day.

Binge Drinking During the Holidays

Before we dive into the legal repercussions of drunk driving, let’s discuss some of the contributing factors for increased holiday DUI rates.

The primary factor for more DUIs during the holidays is the codependent relationship between binge drinking and this time of the year.

The average American drinks more alcohol during the holidays than at any other point. In fact, a quarter of the distilled spirits industry’s profits come from the month spanning Thanksgiving to New Year.

And Americans willingly admit they drink more during this time. Let’s look at some surveys and statistics:

  • 27% of those surveyed by the Sunrise House rehab facility reported that they drink considerably more during the holiday season than the rest of the year, with one in five admitting to drinking every off-work day during this time.
  • Another survey said that the average number of drinks consumed per week for adults jumped by 100% from four a week to eight.
  • More than a quarter of respondents said they drink stronger spirits during the holidays, with many switching from beers and wines to hard liquors.

But why has this casual attitude toward binge drinking become so commonplace?

There are three key factors to consider:

  1. For many people, alcohol has become not just socially acceptable but an essential aspect of holiday celebrations.
  1. There’s the spirit of festive cheer—more social gatherings increase the number of instances where a person might drink and drive.
  1. On the other hand, some drink because of the holiday blues—people dealing with loss, loneliness, or stress related to the Christmas season. 

These elements, combined with the fact that more drivers are traveling during the holidays, play a major role in the uptick of impaired-driver arrests, accidents, and fatalities.

What Happens If You Receive a DUI Over the Holidays?

Whether you’re drunk on a combination of holiday spirit and booze or self-medicating to deal with the difficulties of the Christmas season, you should never get behind the wheel of a vehicle.

What will happen if you are arrested for a DUI in California?

Should a CHP officer pull you over with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or higher, you’ll probably be charged under Vehicle Code 23152 (a) and (b):

  • Vehicle Code 23152(a) – Driving under the influence of alcohol.
  • Vehicle Code 23152(b) – Driving with a BAC of .08% or more.

What Are the Likely Charges for a Holiday DUI?

The specific charges and punishments are contingent on the circumstances of your case.

The vast majority of first-time DUI convictions will end up with a misdemeanor charge, which would result in the following consequences:

  • 3 to 5 years probation
  • $400 to $1,000 in fines and penalty assessments
  • 6- to 12-month driver’s license suspension
  • 3 to 9 months of DUI school

While most DUI cases will end in misdemeanor charges, there are aggravating circumstances that beget sentencing enhancements, which could increase penalties or turn a misdemeanor into a felony charge. Common reasons include:

  • BAC above .15
  • Reckless driving
  • Child endangerment
  • Refusal to take a BAC test
  • An accident resulting in bodily injury and/or property damage
  • Three DUIs within 84 months
  • Driving without a valid or with an expired driver’s license
  • Driving while on probation
  • Prior felony DUI conviction
  • Accident resulting in fatalities

That said, an experienced lawyer could negotiate for lesser sentencing. Prosecutors are especially amenable to reducing charges if this was your first instance of a DUI, have no prior criminal history, and you had a BAC close to .08.

Furthermore, the right legal team could even move to have the case thrown out entirely should they discover flaws in the prosecution’s case, such as a failure to demonstrate probable cause or a faulty breath test.  

This is why it’s so important to hire an experienced DUI attorney as soon as possible. Being proactive ensures that they have an opportunity to investigate the arrest while the details are still fresh. 

Fighting a Holiday DUI

Whether the holidays are a time of celebration or melancholy, there’s never a good reason to drive under the influence.

But what do you do if you are charged for a DUI this holiday season?

To increase the odds of a favorable sentencing outcome, you should look into the top DUI attorneys in Los Angeles. By hiring legal DUI professionals, you could potentially reduce your or have the case thrown out altogether.

So, if you have questions or need support, contact the team at Artz and Sturm Law Group today.  Craig Sturm has specialized in drunk/drugged driving defense for two decades, and is known throughout Los Angeles and Orange County for his successful motions, reduced PreTrial charges, and for winning difficult DUI and criminal trials. If you need help with a DUI charge in Los Angeles, call 310-820-1315 to talk to Craig Sturm today.

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