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County steps up DUI enforcement
Dec 06, 2012 4:20 pm
Wilson County Sheriff’s deputies will be out to catch drunk drivers this weekend.
Every weekend, Cpl. Ray Justice and his team patrol Wilson County to look for impaired drivers.
The effort is part of the department’s DUI intervention program.
“We’ve ramped up to the point that we have a DUI team that works every weekend,” said Justice.
And each weekend, the team generally charges three to five people with DUI.
While the team generally patrols outside city limits, they can make stops within city limits, said Justice.
The team also goes into bars to check IDs and for excessively intoxicated people.
“We try, over the course of a weekend, to go into every bar in Wilson County,” said Justice.
The department’s DUI intervention program began in 2009 with a grant from the Governor’s Highway Safety Program and has received grant money each year to continue the program.
“We’re fortunate that we have had a sheriff in Sheriff [Terry] Ashe and in our new sheriff, Sheriff [Robert] Bryan, that is very supportive of this program,” said Justice.
Justice, administrator of the grant, schedules each year’s patrols – called saturations – and sobriety checkpoints in advance.
“Our goal is to provide a deterrent to prevent people from drinking and driving,” said Justice. “We hope that they are cognizant of the fact that we’re out there.”
Recently bolstered DUI laws make it easier for prosecutors to prove DUI cases.
“If there’s probably cause to believe that there’s alcohol in a person’s body, then we can obtain a search warrant to draw blood,” said Justice.
If a driver is suspected of driving under the influence and there is a child under the age of 16 in the vehicle at the time, the driver cannot refuse a blood alcohol test. If a driver has ever had a DUI and is suspected of driving under the influence a second time, the driver cannot refuse a blood alcohol test.
Under the state’s implied consent law, even if a driver has never had a DUI, the driver can lose his or her license for one year if he or she refuses a blood alcohol test.
So far this year, Wilson County has issued 112 DUI charges, which is on par with previous years, according to Justice.
“When we started the DUI intervention program in ’09, we had 134 arrests that year, which is the same number that we had in 2011,”said Justice. “We’ll probably wind up right on track with what we normally had.”
Justice said the department’s viewpoint is very simple.
“The way Sheriff Bryan looks at it is ‘If you drink and drive in Wilson County, you’re going to jail’ – it’s that simple,” said Justice.