Independence Day: Don’t Spend It In Jail

pittsburgh criminal defense attorneyIndependence Day is a time to celebrate our freedom, yet the price of freedom is often forgotten in the festive atmosphere of barbecues, family and fireworks shows.

Alcohol is as much a traditional part of Independence Day as hot dogs and burgers on the grill, and it can also ruin your party fast.

The police will be out this weekend in force, looking for people operating motor vehicles under the influence of alcohol, as well as other intoxicants like marijuana.

It’s important to remember that freedom is not the right to do as you please without consequences. Freedom is the right to screw up. That is the price of freedom: personal responsibility.

Everyone is free to get hammered on the holidays if they so choose, but when our choices lead to outcomes that hurt others, we can end up losing the freedoms we often take for granted.

Driving is a freedom we have which is a privilege, not a right. A Drivers License means accepting the rules and regulations that come with a drivers license.

The rights we all have when we are walking down the street do not necessarily apply once we get behind the wheel of an automobile. Police officers have quite a bit more leeway in a traffic stop, and all it takes is the odor of alcohol or marijuana, or behavior that leads them to suspect someone is intoxicated, in order to give them probable cause to conduct a vehicle search and/or a field sobriety test.

People do have the right to refuse a blood test or vehicle search, but once probable cause has been established, the odds are good their refusal will only end up working against them.

For starters, refusing a blood alcohol content (BAC) test will automatically trigger a one year suspension of driving privileges, regardless of guilt or innocence. And chances are, DUI charges will be filed anyway. The courts are much more likely to believe the testimony of the arresting officer, with or without the BAC test.

The best defense against a DUI is simple: Don’t drink and drive. Of course, that’s easier said than done, especially on a holiday weekend where the drinks flow freely.

Ironically, alcohol consumption has a negative impact on judgement, so expecting an inebriated person to display good judgement is pretty unrealistic. This is where the slogan, “friends don’t let friends drive drunk” comes into play.

Yes, it’s awkward to confront a friend who has had too much to drink. Drunks are often unreasonable and yes, they can also be irrational, even violent, when confronted. It’s important to recognize this and tailor your approach to be of good humor and genuine concern– without judgement– in order to diffuse any negativity before it can start.

If the friend is the type of person who is quick to anger or prone to physical altercations, it might be a good idea to have several friends standing ready to intervene if needed. Not as a threat, but to reassure the person they care enough to step up, so let’s not go there.

As a last resort, you can always hide their keys and let them search until they pass out.

Chances are, they’ll thank you in the morning.

So rather than pretend no one is going to have a few beers and get behind the wheel this weekend, let’s all look out for each other. Even if you don’t like the person who drank too much, you don’t really want them to end up killing someone, so step up and stop them.

If you do like them, do them a favor and help them to avoid spending a holiday celebrating freedom in jail.

One final thought: You may have only had “a couple beers” and feel fine, but all it takes to get a DUI is a BAC of .008– basically a couple beers.

Don’t chance it. Don’t spend Independence Day in jail.

As always, should you or someone you know get arrested, contact us and we’ll do everything possible to minimize the effects of getting a DUI.

Wishing everyone a safe and fun filled Fourth of July.



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