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6 Ways to Avoid a DUI on the Fourth of July

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The best way to celebrate Independence Day is to enjoy your freedom.

Often, celebrations over the Fourth of July Weekend will involve alcohol consumption. In response, police will be cracking down on drunk driving as part of an ongoing "Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over" campaign.

In anticipation of July 4th, law enforcement has made their message clear: "Over the Limit. Under Arrest." Thus, if you are stopped and arrested for Driving Under the Influence following a party this holiday weekend, you can expect that your freedom will be at stake.

What You May NOT Know

Many of us have made sure we "paced" ourselves and "felt okay to drive" before getting behind the wheel after consuming alcohol. Unfortunately, this line of reasoning is misplaced.

The primary flaw in this thinking is that it assumes that a person's driving must be poor or erratic or unsafe in order to get pulled over for suspicion of driving under the influence.  Thus, we imagine that if our driving is not bad, we will not be pulled over for driving drunk.  However, in reality, bad driving is often NOT the basis for a traffic stop that leads to a DUI arrest.

There are factors, in addition to bad driving, that police look for in targeting potential drunk drivers. For example, many roving DUI patrols are conducted in areas where a higher number of such arrests have occurred in the past and in close proximity to bars and restaurants serving alcohol. Additionally, once police have targeted a specific area, there are a number of motor vehicle infractions that police will look for as a pretext, but legal basis, for a traffic stop in order to investigate for signs of alcohol impairment. With that in mind, here are the:

6 Ways to Avoid a DUI on the Fourth of July

#6: Get Lit

If you are planning on really partying hard and feel like I just read your mind, sorry, we're speaking different languages...and see #1.

A common reason for a traffic stop that leads to an arrest for suspicion of drunk driving is a violation of the Lighting Requirements under the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Code. While the basis for the stop is not necessarily evidence that a person is driving under the influence, it places police in a position to observe and obtain evidence of drunk driving during the traffic stop.

Additionally, there are a few common scenarios involving lighting infractions to watch out for.

Parking lots and streets associated with bars and restaurants are often well-lit. Consequently, if a person is not careful, they may inadvertently pull out onto the road and begin driving at night without turning the car's lights on. Even where it does not result in a safety hazard, driving without headlights at night is a violation of the law and a legal basis for a traffic stop.

Additionally, you should always check and make sure all of your vehicle's lights are operable before you go out. If any of your front or rear lights, brake lights, or plate lights are out, you should take another vehicle out at night. A single, inoperable light provides police another opportunity to stop your vehicle and look for signs of alcohol impairment.

#5: Un-Hitch

In a few recent cases (specifically, in Mifflin County, PA), certain officers have been pulling people over alleging that a tow ball on the back of a truck is obscuring the visibility of the license plate in violation of Section 1332 of the Pennsylvania Motor Vehicle Code.

Under Section 1332(b)(3), "it is unlawful to display on any vehicle a registration plate which...is [] illegible at a reasonable distance or is obscured in any manner." Thus, an aggressive DUI enforcement officer who is looking for any reason to pull someone over may use this as a reason to stop a vehicle and attempt to secure evidence of alcohol impairment (i.e. - odor of alcohol, admission of alcohol consumption, slurred speech, glassy & bloodshot eyes).

Understanding that this is a violation of PA traffic laws, you should NOT routinely drive around with a tow ball attached to the rear of your truck or SUV.

#4: Inspection & Registration

You should always make sure your inspection and registration are up-to-date. Even if your registration or inspection just ran out, it is still a motor vehicle infraction and legal basis for a traffic stop. Any odor of alcohol in the vehicle, even if emitted by a passenger, can provide the police a lawful basis to conduct a DUI investigation.

#3: Designate Before You Celebrate

It is typically the plans that are made with the best of intentions that go wrong. Planning to only have a few drinks and only getting behind the wheel if you feel okay to drive is a plan destined to go wrong. As we discussed, you don't have to be falling over drunk in order to be arrested and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol.

If you plan on celebrating with drinks and friends, it is always best to plan ahead and designate a sober driver before you go out.

#2: High Times

Any celebration can be full of high times. But, when your "high times" are the result of using drugs, the time is neither safe nor legal.

While there has been a push for legalization and decriminalization of marijuana throughout the U.S., marijuana use and possession is still illegal in Pennsylvania.

Additionally, Section 3802(d) of Pennsylvania's DUI Law makes it illegal to operate a vehicle after using drugs even where impaired driving may not be present. Thus, if you are planning to smoke weed or use other drugs instead of drinking alcohol because you are going to be the designated driver, you should come up with another plan. Drugged Driving, like drunk driving, is illegal in PA.

And, the #1 Way to Avoid a DUI on the Fourth of July is...

#1: Don't Drink & Drive

The only foolproof way to avoid a DUI when you have had any amount of alcohol to drink is to NOT get behind the wheel. Phone a friend. Call a cab.

Be Safe.  Live Free.  Have a Happy Independence Day.

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About the Author:

Attorney Shawn M. Curry is an experienced DUI Defense Lawyer committed to helping people accused of driving under the influence throughout Central PA.  With years of DUI defense to his credit, Shawn has been certified as an Instructor in Standard Field Sobriety Testing and as an Evidentiary Breath Technician specific to DUI litigation.

Contact Shawn Curry Law for help.

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