It’s not how you envisioned kicking off the New Year. Perhaps you’ve made resolutions; perhaps you’ve set goals. You were looking forward to the prospects of a new year with new possibilities. Certainly, kicking off 2019 with a Los Angeles DUI arrest was not on the agenda. Now you are facing potential charges that could spoil your momentum and derail all your plans for the year. What do you do now, and what steps can you take to get your year back on track?
First, regardless of the specific circumstances of your case, realize that you’re not the only person in this situation. The holiday season of 2018 in general, and New Year’s Eve in particular, has been record-setting for DUI arrests in California. Consider the following:
• Over the Christmas weekend 2018, California law enforcement officers made more than 1100 DUI arrests. That’s nearly 200 more than the 917 arrests made during the same time in 2017.
• On New Year’s Eve 2018, California officers made 829 DUI arrests, compared to 698 in 2017.
• These numbers suggest an upward trend in the number of holiday DUI arrests over the past years. Police in California made 22 percent more DUI arrests between Christmas and New Year’s 2017 than the previous year. This year’s arrests have surpassed those numbers yet again.
The CHP warns drivers each year that officers will be out in full force over the holidays when more DUI drivers are on the road, so the chances of being arrested even on suspicion of DUI naturally go up during these times. Even so, the concerns of CHP may be justified. Statewide, 47 lives were lost to DUI-related accidents over Christmas 2018, compared to 27 deaths during Christmas 2017. And nationally, the time between Christmas and New Year’s is considered the most dangerous time of year for DUI fatalities, with up to 40 percent of vehicular deaths connected to DUI during this time period.
What Does It Mean?
What do these numbers mean for you if you were one of the people arrested for DUI over the holidays? Ultimately, they set up a paradox of sorts. You were statistically more likely to be arrested on DUI charges during this time than at any other time of year. And yet, due to the legitimate dangers on the road, it’s necessary for law enforcement to be more vigilant during this time, even if some arrests prove to be unjustified.
The real question is: What do you do to move forward? How can you deal effectively with this situation in the hope of salvaging your year?
Hire a Skilled Attorney
Here in Los Angeles, especially, you should never face DUI charges without effective legal representation. Regardless of your guilt, innocence or willingness to cooperate, an attorney will work to protect your rights as a defendant and fight to ensure you don’t get penalized wrongfully. Hiring an attorney should be your first step after getting arrested. The sooner you do, the sooner the lawyer can begin unraveling what happened and help you craft a fair defense.
Take Inventory of the Circumstances of Your Case
While you await formal charges or a trial, your next step with the help of your attorney is to begin piecing together the specific circumstances surrounding your DUI arrest. Every detail matters when determining how to move forward with a defense. Some questions your attorney may ask:
• What circumstances led up to your being pulled over? (e.g., were you speeding? Did you have a broken taillight? What reason did the officer give you for the traffic stop? Was the reason legitimate? Were you at a DUI checkpoint where police were stopping everyone?)
• Who was in the vehicle with you?
• Was anyone drinking or using drugs in the car? Were there any open containers?
• Did the officer ask you to perform a field sobriety test or use a breathalyzer? If so, did you comply?
• How did you behave toward the officer? Were you polite and respectful? Were you belligerent? Did you say or do anything to provoke the officer?
• Did the officer say or do anything that you felt was over the line? Did he have probable cause to stop you and/or arrest you?
• How were you treated at the police station after your arrest? Did the police violate your rights in any way?
• Was this your first DUI arrest? Have you any prior DUI convictions?
Be honest in discussing these details of your case in confidence with your attorney. The goal is not to determine guilt or innocence at this time, but merely to ascertain the facts so your attorney can determine the best strategies for your defense.
Don’t Discuss the Case
Once you’ve been arrested, whether you’re “read your rights” or not, begin with the assumption that apart from your attorney-client relationship, “anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law.” Discuss the details with your attorney in confidence, but resist the temptation to discuss them with family, friends or normal confidantes until the case is resolved, dropped or settled.
Get More Help If Needed
For a moment, let’s assume the worst: that you were driving DUI and your arrest was completely justified. Your attorney can work with you and with the courts to obtain the best possible outcome, but once you get past this event, what will you do for yourself and your family to prevent a second offense? If this was an isolated event—a lapse in judgment—you may be able to get past it just by making better choices in the future. However, if your DUI arrest stems from a deeper, addictive issue, allow the arrest itself to be a wake-up call to seek professional help and long-term support.
Your 2019 might have gotten off to a bad start, but your DUI arrest over the holidays does not have to set the tone for the whole year. Make smart choices both during and after your case, and you may still find the ability to pursue your goals. If you need compassionate legal counsel for your DUI arrest, give us a call.