Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Tis The Season…To Avoid Arrest

The holidays are upon us and the police departments in Orange County are gearing up to enforce DUI laws to make our streets safe…and make lots of money while increasing their statistics.

I hate to break it to you, but the police are going to pull you over for any reason…no front license plate, music too loud, brake light out, license plate light out, registration tag missing…Now is the time to inspect your car and get it to the shop. Prepare for this holdiay season. If you’re driving home after watching football with friends (they know the big game ended too) or you’re coming home from dinner driving down PCH around 10 pm, you better watch out, because it’s not Santa behind you with the red lights flashing. Use your blinker, slow down, stop texting, or better yet take a cab. That fifty dollar cab ride will save you $9,950.

Drunk drivers are not what the Newport, Huntington or Laguna Beach police are looking for – don’t let the misnomer fool you. You do not need to be DRUNK to be arrested. After having a nice dinner with your wife down at Balboa you’re cruising home to Irvine or wherever. You shared a bottle of wine, a couple of steaks and all the trimmings along with that delicious Tiramisu. It’s all good. You know the way home like the back of your hand. The traffic is light and the conversation is easy. Suddenly, lights go on behind you and you’re pulled out of the comfort and into a nightmare. “License and registration please (barks the officer). Do you know how fast you were going? Have you had anything to drink?” It’s over and you don’t even know it. You have had more than your share of the bottle – The indigestion doesn’t help the smell – you’re nervousness doesn’t help you on the roadside tests – and before you know it the officer is putting handcuffs on you while your wife pleads with the officer to let you walk the couple blocks it is to home. “Sorry (not really), we’re taking him in. You can have a sober person pick him up at the Irvine Police Department.” Or worse yet, “he’ll be out sometime tomorrow”- after a cold, smelly, sleepless night at the Santa Ana county jail.

The other scenario that happens to the unexpected driver is when medication is ingested, because of that recent surgery, old basketball injury, persistent back pain; or maybe you’re taking antidepressants or some other prescribed medication. You’re coming home from work and a minor fender bender occurs when the car in front of you stops suddenly, or you come upon a checkpoint. “Drink any alcohol or take any medications today?” - asks the officer innocently – “Just my normal dose of___. “Please step out of the vehicle…and the nightmare begins.

I hear of incidents like this often. If you are taking medications get your doctors written okay to drive and do not mix them with alcohol…yes, I mean one glass of wine or a beer. Do not keep medications in your purse next to your driver’s license, in your pocket or in your center console. And remember silence is golden.

In both of these scenarios you may feel perfectly fine to drive, but unfortunately although the law states differently, you are going to have to prove your innocence in Orange County courts. Juror question, “I don’t understand, the police arrested him or her, they must be guilty of something?”

Beware: on the night before Christmas and all through the year, the police are looking for a reason to add you to their statistics so they can obtain the federal grants and other monies to pay for their DUI task forces and checkpoint operations. The officer with the most arrests also goes to a yearly MADD (Mother’s Against Drunk Drivers) award ceremony. Sure, we need to reduce the amount of accidents caused by drunk drivers, but we also need to educate the public of what exactly that means…and why do bars have parking lots?

Let me get to the crux of the story: One drink is not, sharing a bottle of wine with an endless glass; a margarita that may have a number of shots in it; or a forty-ouncer. Everyone’s metabolism, structure, and individual characteristics make it almost impossible to guess at the amount you can drink and still drive under the law…And let’s face it, when we’re out socializing we’re not counting and measuring. The other problem is that the “science” and devices used to measure your level or impairment are not close to perfect. What is absolutely clear is that DRUNK does not fit into the equation.

The law defines a DUI (D – driving, U – under, I – influence) as someone who is at a .08 alcohol level at the time of driving OR someone who is driving while IMPAIRED (a very technical term, not) by alcohol and/or drugs (including medications).
Be careful our there….it is not Santa watching

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