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July 4th means fireworks, hot dogs and DUI enforcement

Because July 4th is rapidly approaching, it’s time to make plans with friends and family to enjoy the holiday weekend with fireworks, backyard cookouts, and trips to favorite spots along San Diego County’s 70 miles of coastline.

Fourth of July rituals

Another Independence Day tradition will be observed as well when California Highway Patrol and local police officers ramp up efforts to enforce driving under the influence (DUI) laws.

Despite reduced traffic levels last year, CHP made 738 DUI arrests over the July 4th holiday weekend – a significant increase over the 589 arrests made over the 2019 holiday period.

With this year’s Fourth of July traffic expected to be at pre-pandemic levels, will we return to the lower, pre-pandemic DUI arrest totals or will we experience another surge of drivers taken into custody?

Law enforcement tools

We won’t know the answer to that question until CHP releases its post-holiday arrest summary, but we do know that California Highway Patrol officers, San Diego County Sheriff’s deputies, and police officers from Vista, Escondido, Carlsbad, Oceanside, and all other county communities will use a variety of enforcement tools as they search for DUI drivers over the three-day holiday weekend.

DUI checkpoints are used by law enforcement to discourage drinking and driving and arrest DUI drivers. In recent days, checkpoints have been deployed in Mission Bay, downtown San Diego, San Marcos, and Chula Vista.

Another DUI enforcement alcohol screening tool in wide use is the portable breath-testing devices. The portable devices test the air blown into them by drivers for alcohol content to further assist in screening for DUI drivers. The official breath or blood test is still required and is usually administered at the jail or local police department, it can also be deployed to checkpoints.

Potential punishment

A first-offense DUI is a misdemeanor and is punishable by 3-5 years probation, possible custody (up to 6 months max), fines, 3 to 9 month DUI program, ignition interlock device, and driver’s license suspension up to 6 months. There are a number of factors in each case that can mitigate the charge and penalties or aggravate the charge and penalties. Aggravating circumstances can make those potential penalties even harsher.

For instance, it is a felony DUI, punishable by 5 days to 3 years in prison, if you caused an accident that injured another person, even if those injuries were only soft tissue injuries like whiplash. If your DUI accident resulted in great bodily injury – or if there were multiple injury victims – there are sentencing enhancements that can significantly increase your potential custody.

Let’s be clear: all California DUI charges are serious. A conviction can mean possible serious consequences that are not only severe criminal penalties, but a DUI conviction can also have collateral effects on employment, professional licensing, immigration, and other career opportunities. Celebrate the 4th, but if your drinking, have a designated driver, or call a ride share or Taxi – it’s much better in the long run for everyone.

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