Thursday, December 11, 2008

Huge Holiday DUI enforcement dough hits California

California dui criminal defense attorneys report With the holidays fast approaching, law enforcement agencies in Tulare County plan to take California dui drunken drivers off the road with the help of more than $397,000 in federal grant money.

The California dui money will pay for more driving-under-the- influence checkpoints, more "saturation details" involving extra officers on the streets and more warrants for California dui suspects who miss court dates or violate sentence guidelines. But authorities also are asking the public's help.

If you see drivers swerving, stopping erratically or showing any other signs that they're under the influence of alcohol or drugs, authorities want you to use your cell phone to call 911.

The county's 11 law enforcement agencies, including local California Highway Patrol offices and the Tulare County Sheriff's Department, are taking part in an effort called "AVOID the 11 Holiday DUI Enforcement."

A National Highway Transportation Safety Administration California dui grant was awarded to Tulare County in October 2007 to help fund DUI enforcement, prevention and education efforts over 3 1/2 years.

Forty other California counties received also received California dui grants worth a combined $6.5 million.

Key to the California dui program is that the law enforcement agencies in the county must cooperate and share resources when needed, said John Pree, a Visalia traffic officer overseeing the use of the grant money.

In the program's first year, the money funded "courthouse stings" in which police arrested drivers who, despite having lost their licenses at the Tulare County Superior Courthouse in Tulare, walked outside and got behind the wheel.

Pree said other cooperative efforts have involved Visalia police helping Woodlake police conduct DUI enforcement checkpoints and multi-agency DUI saturation details in Tulare and the area around Mooney Grove Park in Visalia. Saturation details took place after this summer's Tulare County Fair and when picnickers left Mooney Grove Park on Easter.

The year's biggest jump in California dui drunk drivers takes place not in December but the spring and summer months, when people are engaging in recreational activities and drinking, police and CHP officials said. Still, there usually is a spike around year's end.

"With all the celebrating for Christmas, and especially New Year's, there will be more people out drinking than would normally be drinking," CHP Officer Scott Harris said.

Usually during the holidays, the number of suspected California dui / DUI offenders stopped and arrested goes up, too, he said.

A stipulation of the grant is that law enforcement beef up DUI enforcement from Friday through Jan. 1. Starting Saturday night, Visalia police will conduct a California dui sobriety checkpoint at an as-yet-undisclosed location in the city.

Other California dui agencies still are determining what they'll do and which may need help from other departments, he said.

Saturation details involve putting a minimum of two extra officers on patrol to focus on DUI offenders. In a city the size of Visalia, police generally prefer to put out as many as 10 California dui extra officers, Pree said.

CHP statistics show that last year, alcohol-related traffic fatalities in the state declined 6.7 percent, from 1,597 in 2006 to 1,491 in 2007. That's the first California dui decline since 1998.

Harris could not immediately provide California dui statistics for Tulare County.

Besides grant money, California dui law enforcement also has received stickers to distribute to local businesses asking drivers to report others who may be on the road while under the influence.

Fill out the important Free California DUI Defense Survey to find out your best strategy and to protect your driving privileges in California.