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In Fullerton, there have been 121 DUI arrests from the start of the new year to Sunday, 586 arrests in 2012, and 831 arrests in 2011.
The increase in DUI arrests in 2013 is due to the Fullerton Police Department putting to use a $146,222 state grant for programs related to drunken-driving suppression, along with a $50,000 grant earmarked for sobriety checkpoints. The grants were awarded last year by the state Office of Traffic Safety.
Since Oct. 1, the department has tapped into the larger grant to implement 35 saturation patrols – six-hour operations involving two officers patrolling the bar-heavy downtown area looking for suspected drunken drivers.The operation has netted an average of one DUI arrest per patrol, said Capt. George Crum. Fifty-five more saturation patrols are planned through Sept. 30.
Five undercover court-sting operations have also been budgeted through the grant. The second took place on Feb.19 at the North Justice Center, where police followed 35 drivers with suspended licenses from the courthouse to their vehicles. Most had alternate transportation, but police did cite six drivers who’d had their licenses suspended for DUI convictions but still got behind the wheel and drove away from the courthouse. Another driver was arrested on a DUI warrant. The first court sting netted seven citations and one arrest.
Through the $50,000 grant, the department has staged one sobriety checkpoint, has a second planned for March, and will hold three more by Sept. 30.
The City Council in August voted unanimously to accept the $146,222 grant but initially turned down the $50,000 grant. Then-Councilman Travis Kiger said checkpoints violate the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment – which guards against unreasonable searches – and are ineffective and merely a tool used by police unions to garner overtime pay.
Family members of people killed by drunken drivers, along with officials from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, criticized the council for turning down the checkpoint grant. The council then revisited the issue and approved the grant after being informed that the state Office of Traffic Safety would not award either grant unless the council accepted both.
According to the Office of Traffic Safety, California leads the nation in the number of sobriety checkpoints with more than 2,000 conducted annually. Almost 90 percent of California drivers support sobriety checkpoints, according to a 2012 survey conducted by the agency. Of the 14 motor-vehicle deaths in Fullerton since 2009, seven were alcohol related, Chief Dan Hughes has said.
Published by Don Ho Law. Don Ho is a criminal defense and employment law attorney in Orange County, California.
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