DA to ramp up DUI fight in county

Sean Janssen, The Union Democrat

Calaveras County has received a $160,000 grant to fight drunken driving.

The state Office of Traffic Safety funds will be used to hire a new deputy district attorney, plus a program assistant and deputy sheriff to tackle DUI cases.

The county received funding for its grant application after Chief Assistant County Administrative Officer Clay Hawkins helped compile some sobering statistics on drunk driving collisions and fatalities. They show Calaveras County to have one of the highest rates in the state, including the highest rate of fatal collisions of drivers between the ages of 21 and 34 who have been drinking.

More than 300 DUI arrests were made in Calaveras County in 2010.

The added prosecutor will help the District Attorney's Office implement a system of "vertical prosecution" for DUI cases, said county DA Barbara Yook. This will allow one prosecutor to see such cases through from start to finish, whereas the cases have typically moved from one attorney without that continuity. The vertical prosecution system is expected to lead to higher conviction rates.

The "Reduce Impaired Driving" program will also see a Sheriff's Office investigator moved over to the District Attorney's Office and a new position created to backfill that shift. The move is designed to replenish a DA investigator staff that has been cut by 50 percent in the past three years.

Though the grant is only for one year, Dave Radford, the director of the Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutor program for the California District Attorneys Association, which will help train the new employees, said the grant has been successfully renewed for more than a decade in jurisdictions such as Fresno County.

The county's Human Resources Department began recruiting for the new positions one week ago, with designs on filling them as quickly as possible.

The grant funding is designed to fill the positions through Sept. 30, 2013.

The Union Democrat
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