4th july dui arizona independence dayHappy Fourth of July! You’re probably digging out your most star-spangled red, white & blue clothing, firing up the barbecue and getting ready to celebrate. Tomorrow will be full of parties, music and dancing, refilled drinks, and a great time. But having to work on Thursday isn’t the only reason you should be partying responsibly.

DUI task forces and patrols will be in full swing, as they are on most holidays. Police will be out watching for DUI violations, and there are usually many arrests. According to the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, police arrested 350 people for DUIs during the holiday in 2009. In 2010, there were 434 DUI arrests. In 2011, even though the Fourth was on a Monday, a staggering 353 DUI arrests were made before the holiday was even over.

This year is no different. Starting tonight, July 3, checkpoints and task forces will go into action. Vans will be posted, and there will be randomized stops with breath tests and trained officers to screen drivers for DUIs. Don’t let these checkpoints take you by surprise, especially if you’ve been celebrating all day, having some beers, and maybe not drinking enough water. Checkpoints are usually set up in popular areas like Old Town Scottsdale, Tempe, Glendale, Chandler, the Carefree highway to Lake Pleasant, and even up near the Grand Canyon. If you plan on going to these spots, be aware of this and plan accordingly: designate a sober driver.

If you are stopped at a checkpoint, remember that your Constitutional rights exist to protect you. Independence Day is all about rights and freedoms, so know what yours are and how to use them. Don’t answer any questions you don’t feel comfortable with before first speaking to a lawyer. You are not required to do any field sobriety tests, or preliminary breath tests. The 5th Amendment protects us against self-incrimination, especially in an unfamiliar legal setting.

It’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to DUIs. Arizona is known for its strictness on DUI offenses and harsh punishments. And it’s not worth the risk. It’s very easy to underestimate how much you’ve had, or how impaired you actually are. So while you’re watching a fireworks show and enjoying a drink or two, make sure somebody else is behind the wheel. Happy Independence Day!