The holiday season from Thanksgiving to the New Year is a time to gather with friends and family whether they live nearby or are visiting from out of state. But when the revelry goes too far a DUI can ruin your holiday season. If you are facing drunk driving charges, find out what you can do to be sure to spend Christmas with your family, instead of behind bars.
DUI Enforcement Increases During the Holiday Season
Thanksgiving is one of the busiest seasons on Colorado roads. Residents and visitors travel across the state to spend time with family and friends. The combination of increased traffic on the road and holiday celebrations means there are more impaired drivers on the roads. According to the Colorado Department of Transportation, in 2018, four out of every five fatal car accidents over the Thanksgiving holiday involves alcohol. Of those pulled over, 70% also test positive for marijuana.
In response to those statistics, the Colorado State Patrol and 91 law enforcement agencies ramped up DUI enforcement between November 22 and December 2. Their The Heat is On campaign echoed past efforts to curb drunk driving and by increasing DUI stops and charges.
The police aren’t alone in their efforts. Every year, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers connects with law enforcement agencies and police officers across the state in its Tie One On for Safety campaign to increase drunk driving awareness all the way through the holiday season until New Year’s Day. In Colorado in 2018, 37% of all traffic fatalities happened between 6:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving Eve and New Year’s Day. From November 22-24, 2019, law enforcement arrested 170 drunk and drugged drivers, compared to 130 arrests in the same period in 2018.
Drunk Driving Arrests Lead to Unhappy Holidays
A stop at a DUI checkpoint or a drunk driving arrest is only the first step in the long process of criminal court proceedings. A criminal case can take months to resolve. But that doesn’t mean you will always have to be separated from your family for the holidays.
If you have been arrested for drunk driving you will almost always go to jail overnight. But you won’t have been convicted yet. While the case is pending, the judge has the ability to set a bond and conditions of release that are reasonably enough to ensure you will come back to court when your hearing is scheduled. Posting this bond will allow you to leave the jail and live your life with certain limits until your case is ready to be tried.
However, the bond conditions on a DUI charge can put a damper on your holiday plans. When presented with DUI charges, most judges will require defendants to stay in the state until the case is over. That means you won’t be able to travel for Christmas. Most DUI bond orders also prevent defendants from drinking or consuming drugs, including marijuana, while they are in place. That could leave you facing a dry New Year’s Eve.
Taking Control of Your Holiday Criminal Case
If your family is out of state or you need time to make arrangements, you should speak to your criminal defense attorney to develop a strategy for court. The reason criminal cases take months is because each side needs time to review the facts, gather evidence, interview witnesses, and prepare their case. This can work to your advantage. If you have important family events around the holidays, your attorney may be able to use the information-gathering process called “discovery” to push the case out until after the new year. In rare cases, you may even be able to use pre-existing travel arrangements (like non-refundable plane tickets) to get permission to temporarily leave the state. However, the success of that argument will depend on your own history and the judge’s discretion.
Probation Orders Could Affect Christmases Yet to Come
Most criminal cases don’t end in a trial. Most criminal defendants choose to enter a plea agreement rather than risk a lengthy jail sentence. In some cases, taking a plea deal could mean your jail sentence could be converted to a period of probation. However, past DUI charges and present probation orders can affect the way you celebrate Christmas future.
Probation orders have many of the same limits and restrictions as bond conditions. If you have been convicted of DUI and are serving a period of probation, family holiday traditions could result in a probation violation and a new jail sentence. While you are on probation, you should talk to your family now about adjusting their holiday expectations. Depending on the terms of your probation, that could include:
- Inviting them to Colorado rather than traveling out of state
- Removing drugs and alcohol from the menu (and any house where you celebrate)
- Adjusting the time of parties and celebrations based on curfew
You may sometimes be able to request permission to travel from your probation officer, but this should be done early so you can make adjustments if the probation officer says no.
Heightened enforcement from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day increases the chance that DUI charges could interfere with your holiday plans. But by working together with your criminal defense attorney and following the right procedures with your probation officer, you may be able to keep all your Christmases merry and bright.
At Aviso Law, LLC, our criminal defense attorneys have experience with the Colorado courts and know how to work with court schedules to protect your most important family traditions. We are here to serve you from the initial DUI traffic stop, through discovery, sentencing, and any probation or parole challenges. We will help you understand how the laws work together, and identify your best way forward. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.