2017-12-28 / Courts

Higher conviction rate for drunk driving, so be careful over holidays

Extra patrols out

Planning to ring in 2018 with a champagne toast?

Then your plans shouldn’t include getting behind the wheel of a vehicle.

County law enforcement will have extra patrols on roads New Year’s Eve targeting drunk drivers, thanks to a grant from the state Office of Highway Safety Planning (OHSP).

“We advise everyone that if you plan to drink alcohol, you do that in place,” Undersheriff Steve Morgan said. “Your plans should not include driving.”

Additional patrols will also be on roads Saturday evening, the penultimate day of the year, when a high number of people are also expected to be drinking.

Subjects arrested on drunk driving charges are convicted at a higher rate than those charged decades ago, according to longtime defense attorney and county resident Craig Elhart.

“The law has changed quite a bit. It’s a good deal harder to win a case than it used to be,” he said.

In the days gone by, a roadside sobriety test was brought in as evidence. Breathalyzer tests have turned “anecdotal” evidence into “scientific” evidence.

But it took a while for Breathalyzers to earn credibility.

“Initially jurors didn’t believe (test results),” Elhart said.

First time offenders are subject to:

 Up to 93 days in jail

 Up to $500 fine

 As many as 360 hours of community service.

 Up to 6 points on your driver’s license.

 Up to 180 days with a suspended license, with the possibility of a restricted license after 30 days.

This doesn’t include attorney fees nor other costs related to a conviction, according to the OSHP.

There’s an arrest fee of $150 to $350; bail of $150 to $2,000; $100 to $200 for towing and impound; court fees of $700 to $2,200; alcohol evaluation and testing from $10 to $300 per month; alcohol education/treatment, $350 to $1,000; driver responsibility fees $1,000 a year for two years; monthly tether fees of $200; license reinstatement of $125.

The average total cost, including increased insurance rate each year of $1,500 or more, comes to a whopping $15,680.

Still the drunk driving arrests and convictions continue to occupy space in the Enterprise each week. Oddly, a growing number of drunk driving arrests are made during business hours — from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“It surprises me there continues to be people who drink and drive,” Elhart said. “Even with the onerous penalties, I’m surprised at the number who still continue to do it.”

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