From Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day, the holiday season is a time for family gatherings, joy and relaxation. However, while enjoying these gatherings, it is important to remember that authorities recognize the increased risk of drinking and driving during holiday celebrations.
As such, authorities are on high alert.
According to the California Highway Patrol, officers arrested 341 drivers in just a 54-hour maximum enforcement period during Christmas weekend in 2021. In 2022, officers also conducted a maximum enforcement period over Christmas weekend, along with DUI checkpoints in certain locations in San Diego and throughout the state. Drivers should be prepared this year once again for law enforcement to ramp up DUI enforcement efforts to curb drunk driving over the holidays.
The rules around DUI checkpoints vary. Here in San Diego, authorities use checkpoints fairly often. What should drivers expect?
Will San Diego authorities use DUI checkpoints this holiday season?
San Diego authorities have a reputation for using these checkpoints around popular holidays. In a recent example, authorities in Encinitas ran a checkpoint the Friday before the Fourth of July. The checkpoint stopped vehicles from 8 p.m. until midnight. During those four hours, authorities stopped an estimated 600 vehicles. Deputies working the checkpoint took three drivers into custody under suspicion of operating their vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and another under suspicion of operating under the influence of drugs.
Authorities are also known to increase their presence around beaches, popular gathering areas and any location with a history of DUI crashes or arrests in an attempt to remove unsafe drivers from the roads. It is likely authorities will use a combination of both checkpoints and increased presence during the holidays.
Why else might an officer conduct a stop?
It is important to note that an officer can have any number of valid reasons for conducting a stop. Aside from the more obvious signs like failing to stop at a stop sign or veering into another lane of traffic, an officer may notice an expired license plate or a burned-out taillight. You may feel fine, but if the officer smells alcohol or otherwise suspects that you may be impaired, the stop can quickly escalate to one that involves a DUI arrest if there is any indication you are impaired or over the blood alcohol limit of .08 BA or more for adults over age 21.
What should I do if I am arrested after a stop or at a checkpoint?
If you are contacted at a checkpoint, you will be given field sobriety tests as well as a breath or blood test to determine blood alcohol level or the presence and amount of drugs in your system. Do not refuse the official blood or breath test or you will face a one-year license suspension and the officer can get a warrant to draw your blood anyway. Do not cop an attitude, be polite and non-confrontational. You do not have to take field sobriety tests, but if taken they are considered in the evaluation of impairment.
No one wants to spend Christmas behind bars. Plan to have a sober driver during your holiday celebrations. If you are arrested for DUI, contact a DUI defense attorney as soon as possible to understand the process, defenses, penalties and what to do to put yourself in the best position for Court and the DMV.