Ah, the holidays. The final months of the year are a time of joy and remembrance as families and friends gather to celebrate and break bread together. Regardless of your own cultural or faith traditions, there is something about the long, cold nights of winter that hearkens back to ancient times when our early ancestors hunkered around burning fires to share a cup of grog and tell their stories.

While we are many generations away from those cave-dwellers, we have retained some of their traditions, including raising a cup of cheer to celebrate the bonhomie of the season.

When celebrations lead to tragedy

Unfortunately, all it takes to turn your holiday celebration into a horrific tragedy is getting behind the wheel after you’ve been drinking. It’s estimated that 300 individuals lost their lives in collisions with drunk drivers over a five-year period in the days between Christmas and New Year.

That’s 300 empty chairs at families’ holiday tables and countless grieving friends and relatives who will never again get to hug their loved ones.

The numbers are sobering

In a single recent year (2016), just during December, 3,067 individuals died in auto accidents. A quarter of those deaths, or 781, died as a result of alcohol-related crashes.

Of the 14,472 lives lost to wrecks in December in the four years from 2012 to 2016, nearly 4,000 (28%) died in accidents where at least one of the drivers was impaired by alcohol.

Can you trust the police?

While we all can agree that drinking and driving during holidays (or any days) is unwise, it is also true that overzealous law enforcement can mismanage a simple traffic stop and escalate it into a drunk driving arrest.

For one, the officer cannot pull motorists over at random and accuse them of driving drunk. There must first be a reasonable suspicion that you are indeed driving while impaired for the officer to initiate the traffic stop.

Simply being triggered by the color of a driver’s skin or their bumper stickers is insufficient reason to stop a motorist on suspicion of drving while intoxicated (DWI). If the reason for the stop was legally problematic, the ensuing arrest could be deemed unjust.

While this can be challenging to prove in court, it is possible to get the charges dropped if your North Carolina criminal defense attorney can show the traffic stop was motivated by an officer’s personal bias or other factors outside the legal standard. We can help you launch a robust defense to the charges you face.