With the holiday season rapidly upon us, the thought to partying comes to the fore. While enjoying the party, please note one thing: Do Not Drink and Drive. As the television commercials and newscasts say: the police will be out looking for drivers that have had too much of the holiday spirit. They will see you before you see them.

A DUI (driving under the influence) now carries a societal stigma more than in prior years. The penalties are much more severe than ever. The DUI statute (Vehicle code Section 23152) has been changed to reflect increased penalties which will result in a longer license suspension and increased fines and jail time. In the good old days, the time for a second DUI was 7 years, then it was lengthened to 10 years and now it is a lifetime. Society does not want to condone DUI. The increased penalties can be traced to organizations such as MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Drivers) and others. They want to lessen the potential death, injury and property damage that results from DUI.

A first time DUI will give the defendant a $1400 fine ($395 increased by $600% with various fees added), a driver’s license suspension for 90 days (an actual suspension for 30 days and then a restricted license for 60 days. The restriction will allow you to drive to and from work and to and from the alcohol school. The court will mandate that you attend an alcohol school for counseling to get you to not drink and drive. You will get to pay for this as well. The court may order you to have (and pay for) an interlock ignition device for your car. The device will not allow your car to start unless and until the machine is satisfied that you are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol.  As you can see, these other collateral things can become very expensive in a short amount of time. Add this to the increased insurance that you will have to pay for the next 5-7 years (probably an increase of 200-300 per cent) and before you party, ask yourself, do I want to subject myself to all this?

All this could be in addition to any potential civil lawsuit that you could face if you drive drunk and injure someone. You could be subject to the imposition of punitive damages. These damages are designed to punish the wrongdoer. There is no “policy limit” as your car insurance will not cover you for punitive damages. You do not want all of your assets potentially exposed to pay for injuries because you drove drunk.

There are numerous options that exist to avoiding DUI. First, get a designated driver. Second, call a cab. Third stay at a friend’s house, your house or a hotel. Fourth, do not drink to excess or at all! Spend our money on enjoying the holiday season. Get gifts for your loved ones. Make a contribution to a charity of your choice. Do not wind up paying court fees and lawyer fees to extricate yourself from being stupid.