– The San Benito County District Attorney’s Office will receive
state grant money in January to provide training to its attorneys
in prosecuting alcohol-related traffic cases.
Hollister – The San Benito County District Attorney’s Office will receive state grant money in January to provide training to its attorneys in prosecuting alcohol-related traffic cases.
The California Office of Traffic Safety has granted the California District Attorneys Association $3 million to improve prosecution of driving under the influence and vehicular manslaughter crimes through the next three years, according to a San Benito County District Attorney’s Office press release. The state will be divided into five regions. Each region will be assigned a traffic safety resource prosecutor and receive a fifth of the grant money to provide education and training to local prosecutors, according to the press release.
San Benito County’s conviction rate for DUI cases was 86 percent as of 2004, a rate San Benito County District Attorney John Sarsfield is pleased with, he said. The grant money will help San Benito County improve an already effective prosecution of such crimes, Sarsfield said.
“This money will provide training for prosecutors to become more proficient in presenting driving under the influence and manslaughter cases, in particular, for small and mid-sized counties,” Sarsfield said. “And we know that our already high conviction rates will increase even more. We’re very aggressive on how we dispose of DUIs.”
In a county where many of the inroads are two lanes and undivided, drunken driving poses a threat to the safety of motorists, San Benito County Sheriff Curtis Hill said.
“On a Saturday night at midnight, if you’re on a two-lane road, half the cars coming at you are drunk drivers,” Hill said.
Six people were killed and 52 people injured in alcohol-related crashes in San Benito County last year, according to the California Highway Patrol. Law enforcement arrested 379 people for driving under the influence in San Benito County last year, according to the California Attorney General’s Criminal Justice Statistics Center.
In 2005, most statewide DUI-related injuries and deaths occurred on Saturdays and Sundays between 2am and 3am, according to the CHP.
The Sheriff’s Office will turn over suspected drunken drivers to the CHP for better conviction rates, Hill said. Hollister-Gilroy Area CHP Public Information Officer Chris Armstrong said DUI detection and arrests are a CHP specialty.
“We have a good working relationship with the San Benito County Sheriff,” Armstrong said.
Michael Van Cassell covers public safety for the Free Lance. He can be reached at 831-637-5566 ext. 335 or [email protected]