Saturday, December 15, 2007

Statewide California DUI crackdown in force

California DUI criminal defense lawyer news

California DUI / drunk driving / drugged drivers will come under intense police scrutiny Friday as the "Avoid the 18" campaign starts its winter holiday California DUI crackdown.

Named for the number of Monterey County law enforcement agencies involved, the 19-day enforcement push ends at midnight New Year's Day, said Salinas Police Sgt. Andy Miller, campaign coordinator.

The campaign will conduct California DUI sobriety checkpoints and add patrols to seek out California DUI drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

"It's easy to avoid us," Miller said. "Just drive stone-cold sober every single time."

In 2006, Avoid the 18 departments brought in 203 people suspected of driving under the influence during the holiday crackdown. No DUI-related deaths occurred during the 18-day enforcement period.

This year, the agencies have the following California DUI plans:

California Highway Patrol: Sobriety checkpoint in north Monterey County on Friday; maximum enforcement on county highways.

Greenfield police: Sobriety checkpoints Dec. 21 and 28; patrol hours adjusted to cover prime DUI times.

Seaside police: Sobriety checkpoint Dec. 21; 24-hour DUI saturation patrols.

Carmel police: Patrol hours adjusted to cover prime DUI times.

Monterey police: Overtime enforcement teams between 7 p.m. and 3 a.m.
In addition, Officer Jesus Yanez of the King City police - who has made 126 DUI arrests so far this year - will be on duty throughout the holidays, said King City police Capt. Bruce Miller.

"We never have had an officer achieve such a high number of DUI arrests in the history of King City," Miller said.

Avoid the 18 is sponsored by the Monterey County Chief Law Enforcement Officers' Association and paid for by the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

The campaign joins 41 similar county-wide efforts in California. The Avoid movement began in 1973 in Santa Clara County with Avoid the 13.

The chances of California DUI drunk drivers getting caught this holiday season in the central San Joaquin Valley went up Friday with the deployment of a first-ever six-county anti-DUI campaign involving 53 California DUI law enforcement agencies.

"And if you do get stopped, consider yourself lucky," said Hanford police Chief Carlos Mestas, because it's better than causing an accident.

Mestas was among a group of top law enforcement officials from Fresno, Tulare, Kings and Madera counties who turned out for a news conference Friday at the Clovis Police Department to talk about the campaign, known as AVOID. Kern and Merced counties are also involved in the AVOID California DUI operations.

For the last two years, the campaign had been called "AVOID the 17," getting its name from the 17 local and state law enforcement agencies from Fresno and Madera counties that participated.

Clovis police Chief Bob Keyes said this is the third year locally for the AVOID program. Funding comes from the state's Office of Traffic Safety, and agencies statewide are organizing AVOID operations. The state money covers officer overtime for sobriety checkpoints, saturation patrols and other anti-DUI efforts.

During the first two years of AVOID the 17, Keyes said officers set up 41 California DUI sobriety checkpoints and 62 saturation patrol operations, arrested 1,420 DUI suspects and impounded 2,103 vehicles.

Fresno County District Attorney Elizabeth Egan said 100% of accidents involving DUI suspects can be prevented if people just don't drive when they have been drinking or using drugs.

Use a designated driver, she said.

Last year, she said, her office filed 7,485 complaints for DUI cases. Two out of five California DUI misdemeanor cases filed by her office involve DUI, she said.

Greg Anderson, one of Egan's prosecutors, said a first conviction for a DUI offense can be costly in many ways, including jail time of up to six months and a fine of as much as $1,000.

California DUI Offenders also face their driving privileges being suspended or restricted and, if they are placed on probation, a long list of stiff probation terms.

The AVOID campaign is scheduled to run through Jan. 1.

Increased DUI patrols in an effort to keep the streets safe.

Friday began the National Drunk Driving Awareness Mobilization period, which continues until Jan. 1, said Traffic Sgt. John Mattke of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Victorville station.

As a kickoff to the heightened enforcement, there will be a DUI checkpoint in Victorville tonight between the hours of 7 p.m. and 3 a.m. Sunday, as well as saturation patrols. That trend will continue throughout the county in this enforcement period, as 14 checkpoints and an additional 70 patrols are to be added countywide, Mattke said.

“Every city in the county will be participating and the overall goal is to prevent alcohol-related collisions,” Mattke said.

There will also be underage drinking programs taking place at this time, as Mattke indicated that Victorville ranked 12th in a look at 103 comparably-sized cities in California for the most underage California DUI alcohol-related crashes.

“With number one on that ranking being the worst, that’s a big concern. So, do we still have a problem? Yes we do,” Mattke said.
Still, across the board, early indications indicate a reduction in California DUI alcohol-related collisions, Mattke said.

The California DUI checkpoint is funded through a $597,000 grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Mattke added.

Authorities encourage motorists to report California DUI drunk drivers.

California DUI criminal defense attorneys caution against unreasonable search and seizures.