SAN DIEGO–The San Diego County District Attorney’s Office said Thursday that it received a grant for the third year in a row from the Office of Traffic Safety to prosecute DUI cases involving fatalities and some serious injury cases. The grant, which is $646,088, funds two deputy district attorneys and one district attorney investigator of the DUI homicide unit.
As part of the grant and with assistance from the Southern California Training Center, the unit will continue to coordinate and participate in DUI prevention and awareness in schools, military bases and colleges. It will also continue to provide training to local law enforcement agencies.
“The District Attorney’s Office is so grateful for this continued funding,” DA Bonnie Dumanis said. “San Diego continues to have an alarming number of DUI fatalities. In the past nine weeks alone, there have been 12 people killed as a result of impaired driving.”
Last year, more than 11,454 DUI-related cases were prosecuted in San Diego County. Of that number, the District Attorney’s Office prosecuted 419 DUI with injury cases, up from 363 the year before. Throughout the county, the trend continues with almost half of all of the DUI cases involving a blood alcohol content over .15%.
Five cases involving DUI murder or gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated went to trial last year, with guilty verdicts in every instance. One defendant was sentenced to 30 years to life after he killed two friends while driving with a .28 percent blood-alcohol level. In another case, a mother was sentenced to 13 years and four months for killing her 3-year-old child while driving under the influence of methadone.
Funding from this DUI Prosecution Grant will aid the District Attorney’s Office in handling cases through each step of the criminal process. This includes prosecuting both alcohol and drug-impaired driving cases. In fatal and major injury DUI vehicle collisions, members of the team may respond to the crash scene to be part of the investigation.
The DUI Homicide Unit streamlines complex DUI cases by creating expertise within the office. This results in a quicker resolution to cases and speedier justice to the families who have lost a loved one. The specialized unit creates uniformity in sentencing among the four adult courthouses. In addition, the unit helps law enforcement adapt to changes in technology by having a designated DA Investigator who is trained in the latest techniques in collision reconstruction.
A dedicated DA Investigator assists law enforcement in finding DUI suspects through investigative techniques. Many times defendants leave the scene of a crash because they are impaired. By having a dedicated team working with law enforcement, authorities are better able to find offenders and ultimately get the message out that if you leave the scene of a crash, you will be caught and prosecuted.
“Overall, California’s roadways are among the safest in the nation,” said Office of Transportation Safety Director Rhonda Craft. “But, to meet future mobility, safety, and accessible transportation objectives, we have to work very hard together to reach our common goal – zero deaths on our roadways. The Office of Traffic Safety and the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office want to work with everyone to create a culture of traffic safety across San Diego and the state.”
Grant funding from the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration will change how our office handles these challenging cases to be better, more efficient and more effective.