Robin Fuson
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On St. Patrick’s Day, Don’t Push Your Luck

DUI

Across the United States, and in fact around the world, fans of all things Irish are preparing for St. Patrick’s Day.

How can you make sure that your own celebration of St. Patrick’s Day goes well – without a driving under the influence (DUI) arrest?

Any time you drive or ride as a passenger in the state of Florida, there’s probably an intoxicated driver on the road near you.

That’s even more likely on St. Patrick’s Day. Don’t let that intoxicated motorist be you.

Below, you’ll find several suggestions to help you avoid any DUI-related trouble on St. Patrick’s Day weekend.

WHAT CAN YOU EXPECT ON ST. PATRICK’S DAY WEEKEND?

Saturday, March 17, is St. Patrick’s Day, and the revelers are expected to start hitting the bars – as well as the streets – Friday afternoon. Some will celebrate until the wee hours of Monday morning.

But along with the green beer, here in central Florida and the Tampa Bay area, you can also expect to see plenty of flashing red lights and a number of sobriety checkpoints.

The Florida Highway Patrol will team up with local law enforcement agencies to put DUI “wolf packs” – patrol officers focused predominantly on DUI enforcement – on many of the Bay Area’s streets and highways.

On St. Patrick’s Day weekend in 2017, in St. Petersburg alone, the city’s police officers combined with Florida Highway Patrol officers to file a total of 73 criminal charges and 132 traffic citations.

TO CELEBRATE SAFELY, WHAT SHOULD YOU KNOW?

The “legal limit” for drinking and driving in Florida is a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.08 percent. For most of us, that’s about one bottle of beer or glass of wine.

So, if you’re celebrating St. Patrick’s Day away from home, it’s imperative to drink responsibly and to plan ahead so that you get home safely, without getting injured or arrested.

Law enforcement authorities offer these four simple tips to help motorists avoid DUI-related jail time, fines, driver’s license suspensions, injuries, and fatalities:

1. Have a plan for a safe way home, and have it confirmed before the festivities begin.
2. Before you drink, name a designated driver – someone you trust with your life.
3. Do not take your car keys with you when you head out.
4. If you get stuck or stranded, call a taxi, a rideshare service, or a sober friend or relative.

Most Florida drivers who are arrested for driving under the influence are first offenders who will face a misdemeanor DUI charge.

WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES OF A FIRST DUI CONVICTION IN FLORIDA?

The possible criminal penalties in Florida for a misdemeanor DUI conviction – when it’s a first offense with no injuries or property damage – include a fine of up to $1,000, a one-year driver’s license suspension, up to six months in jail, and up to a year on probation.

You may be looking at bail costs, repairs to your vehicle, medical bills, and time lost from work as well as restitution fees, legal fees, and substantially higher auto insurance rates.

You’ll also pay to enroll in DUI classes, you’ll pay a license reinstatement fee when your driver’s license suspension is lifted, and you’ll pay monthly probation fees during the term of probation.

If you drive for a living, you may have to find other work.

And all of that is for a simple, first-offense misdemeanor DUI conviction. Subsequent driving under the influence convictions, as you might imagine, generate harsher penalties.

WHAT IF AN IMPAIRED DRIVER INJURES SOMEONE?

And if you injure someone while driving under the influence in Florida, a conviction can be punished with a minimum term of four years in a Florida state prison.

An intoxicated motorist who causes injuries or death may also be targeted for a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit in Florida’s civil courts. A conviction for driving under the influence is compelling evidence of liability in a personal injury case.

But even if you don’t drink, you must not forget that other drivers will be drinking on St. Patrick’s Day weekend. Buckle your safety belt and check your brakes, wipers, tire pressure, and all of your lights, too. If you are in a drunk driving car accident in Arizona, contact a drunk driving car accident lawyer in Mesa, AZ.

WHAT ARE THE DUI NUMBERS?

Impaired driving causes thousands of traffic accidents, severe injuries, and tragic fatalities – an average of about 27 fatalities every day since 2001, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

In 2015, law enforcement agencies made 4,101 DUI arrests in Hillsborough County and 3,336 DUI arrests in Pinellas County. In 2016, the Tampa Police Department alone made 2,087 DUI arrests.

Injury and fatality statistics jump considerably higher for annual events such as St. Patrick’s Day, the Fourth of July, Halloween, and New Year’s Eve.

Why are there more intoxicated drivers on holidays? It’s because many people who rarely or almost never drink will have festive drinks on a holiday with their friends – and then try to drive.

If you are stopped by the police at a DUI checkpoint, be cooperative and pleasant, and you’ll probably move through without any trouble.

IF YOU ARE CHARGED WITH DUI, WHO CAN HELP?

But anyone who faces a driving under the influence charge in central Florida will need to ask an experienced Tampa DUI lawyer to review the case and to provide legal advice and aggressive defense representation.

Contact that attorney immediately.

Never try to be your own lawyer when the charge is DUI – you’ll be putting your freedom and your future at risk. Driving under the influence is never a good idea, never worth it, and never acceptable.

Pleading guilty to a DUI charge is never a good idea either. Pleading guilty to DUI is legally the same as being found guilty by a jury.

If you’re arrested for driving under the influence anywhere in the state of Florida, fight the charge with help from a good DUI lawyer. Some states such as Kansas have different laws, so it is advised to consult with a Kansas DUI attorney.

HOW CAN A DUI DEFENSE LAWYER HELP YOU?

Your attorney will explain your rights, prepare your defense, and look for flaws in the state’s case against you.

If your rights were violated by the police, or if your DUI test results were inaccurate, your attorney may be able to have a DUI charge dismissed or reduced to a lower charge.

But even if the evidence against you is conclusive and a conviction is certain, your attorney will fight for reduced or alternative sentencing and work to bring your DUI case to its best possible conclusion.

Don’t drink and drive. That’s the rule, and it’s the best possible advice.

Tampa DUI attorney Robin Fuson summarizes the advice you need for St. Patrick’s Day. He says, “Don’t Drink. But then, things might be a little dull, so get yourself a designated driver, someone you can trust not to drink and to be there for you when you’re ready to leave.”

Attorney Fuson continues, “But sometimes your designated driver fails you, so be prepared. Taking an Uber or Lyft is going to be way less expensive than hiring me if you make a bad decision.”

The attorney concludes by saying, “So based on how far your celebration of the holiday is from where you live, I would suggest keeping $25 tucked away somewhere safe for a taxi, just in case. Drink responsibly and stay safe.”

If you do drink and drive, and if you’re charged with the crime, take advantage of the legal help that’s available and contact a good Florida DUI attorney at once. That is your right.

Robin Fuson
By Robin Fuson