Although St. Patrick’s Day has religious origins in Ireland, it has evolved into a worldwide rite of spring that is often associated with the consumption of alcohol.
March 17 is a national holiday in Ireland and the date is celebrated in many countries across the globe. Many St. Patrick’s Day festivities involve eating Irish food and the drinking of alcohol, including green beer, whiskey, and other alcoholic beverages.
Several locales in the U.S. (including Chicago, Indianapolis, and fountains at the White House in Washington, D.C. and in Savannah, Ga.), dye the water green on St. Patrick’s Day.
Tampa, Florida has been dyeing a downtown section of the Hillsborough River green since 2012. The Tampa Mayor’s River O’Green Fest expects to draw thousands of people to Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park at 600 N. Ashley Drive in Tampa on March 19, 2016, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Although the River O’Green Fest will take place two days after St. Patrick’s Day on the calendar, March 19 was selected by city officials as a date to maximize crowd participation.
Many people who live in Brooksville, Florida, and the surrounding areas of Spring Hill and the north Tampa suburbs of Hernando County, about 45 miles north of downtown Tampa, will attend the St. Patrick’s Day festivities in Tampa.
Other folks from Hernando may venture into Pinellas County, where a famed eatery on U.S. Highway 19 advertises 10,000 pounds of corned beef and cabbage, green beer, and live music all week long. Many other restaurants and bars throughout Tampa Bay have St. Patrick’s Day promotions.
Be Careful Out There
Law enforcement agencies are on the alert for impaired drivers before, during, and after St. Patrick’s Day events. It’s not New Year’s Eve crazy, but St. Patrick’s Day is nevertheless high on the police radar as a holiday when people tend to drink too much and then drive.
Even people who elect to stay close to home and attend Brooksville’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade at Clover Leaf Farms (900 N. Broad St.) at 10 a.m. on Thursday should be aware that law enforcement will be extra diligent in identifying and pursuing drunk drivers on March 17 and the days surrounding St. Patrick’s Day.
In addition to drinking and driving, public intoxication is another alcohol-related offense that could have serious consequences after an arrest.
Florida Highway Patrol
As of March 16, the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) had not indicated its intentions for St. Patrick’s Day enforcement actions. However, as recently as four years ago, the FHP issued a press release several days before St. Patrick’s Day in which it stated that it “would be on the lookout for impaired drivers during the week leading up to St. Patrick’s Day.”
FHP’s effort then was part of a national effort by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) called the “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over” campaign, focusing on impaired driving, failure to buckle up, speeding, and reckless driving.
“The Florida Highway Patrol continues to make DUI (Driving Under the Influence) enforcement a priority,” FHP Director Col. David Brierton said at the time. “We have a zero tolerance for impaired driving. Having a designated driver and planning ahead will make your trip safer.”
The FHP cited nearly 18,000 alcohol-related crashes on Florida’s roadways in 2010. Nearly 800 people died and more than 12,000 suffered injuries because of those crashes, according to the press release. “FHP encourages all residents of the state to drive carefully, and together we will make a difference,” the press release stated.
The FHP offered these “tips to make your St. Patrick’s Day and the week leading up to the holiday safer”:
- Plan ahead
- Use a designated driver
- Dial *FHP (*347) on your cell phone to report an impaired driver
- If you are impaired, use a taxi or call a friend or a family member to get you home safely
Private transportation services that can be accessed via a cellular phone app are also now available.
In addition to the actions of the FHP to eradicate drunk driving, the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office and the cities within the county also have the option to employ “DUI checkpoints” to catch drunk drivers. These efforts are more common around holidays when drinking is expected to escalate, including St. Patrick’s Day and the days surrounding March 17.
DUI checkpoints are a hot-button issue. Despite good intentions, DUI checkpoints, which were validated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1990, have been criticized for violating rights guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution. Consequently, law enforcement officers must follow rigid standards at DUI checkpoints and should not detain anyone for an unreasonable amount of time.
Hernando County drivers who choose to imbibe during 2016 St. Patrick’s Day celebrations should be aware that a DUI checkpoint may be implemented at any time. Nighttime, when people usually drink more alcohol, is a likely period for a DUI checkpoint to occur.
Florida law enforcement agencies are required to publicize DUI checkpoints, but the agency may publicize the event with little advance warning, including on the day a DUI checkpoint is to be implemented.
Anyone concerned about DUI checkpoints should follow media reports in newspapers and on TV and radio, as well as social media outlets, to learn about reports of DUI checkpoints. You can also contact a law enforcement agency or visit a law enforcement agency’s web site to learn about DUI checkpoints.
It is legal to avoid a DUI checkpoint by turning around if turning around is done safely and carefully. It is also legal to enter a location (such as an open business) prior to coming to a DUI checkpoint.
Brooksville, Florida Attorney for St. Patrick’s Day Arrests
Whether you choose to venture out or stay close to home in Hernando County for your St. Patrick’s Day celebration, you should drive carefully and arrive alive. If you do encounter trouble, remember that the Law Office of Ashley Aulls represents clients throughout Brooksville, Spring Hill, Inverness and nearby communities in and around Hernando County. Contact Ashley Aulls at (352) 593-4115 to schedule a consultation.