DUI arrests up 59 percent

Driving-under-the-influence arrests by the Mesa County Sheriff’s Department are up 59 percent this year, compared to the same time last year.

Deputies have been working checkpoints with troopers from the Colorado State Patrol and are being extra vigilant while working their shifts to watch for inebriated drivers, according to the Sheriff’s Department. Deputies made 61 DUI arrests by June 2008.

Deputies have made 103 DUI arrests so far this year, according to a Sheriff’s Department news release.

“We are very happy to see that,” said Dan Rubinstein, chief deputy district attorney of the 21st Judicial District.

Last year Rubinstein asked Rep. Steve King, R-Grand Junction, to sponsor a bill that would have made repeated drunken driving a felony. He said it was “very frustrating” to see the bill fail to become law.

“Obviously we have had a large number of DUI related deaths recently (in Mesa County), and word needs to get out there that law enforcement is going to target them,” Rubinstein said.

There have been five alcohol-related motor vehicle deaths so far in Mesa County this year. Targeting drunken drivers continues this weekend when deputies will set up a checkpoint.

The increased enforcement is the result of the department receiving more federal and state grant money to perform sobriety checkpoints and do extra patrols, Sheriff’s Department spokeswoman Heather Benjamin said.

This year, the department received a $35,000 grant for DUI patrols, a grant it has received in previous years, too, but not in 2008.

Deputies also have worked with state liquor enforcement officers, stepping up desert and city patrols, searching for teen parties and doing stings at liquor stores.

“It is appalling that people continue to drink and get behind the wheel of a vehicle,” Sheriff Stan Hilkey said. “People who make those poor decisions should consider themselves warned, as deputies are working extremely hard to find DUI drivers all the time.”

The Sheriff’s Department said the cost of a first-time DUI can run around $10,000.

“Just don’t do it. It is not worth it,” said Benjamin, adding people who plan to drink should make arrangements to get home without getting behind the steering wheel.
“Always designate a sober person, ride the bus, take a cab, walk, party at home or just don’t drink.”


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