Originally Published: January 2, 2002 6:15 p.m.
PRESCOTT – Whiskey Row looked busy early New Year's Day, according to Prescott Police Officer Don Davis, because many people opted to leave their cars downtown instead of driving drunk after holiday festivities.
As a result, the number of DUI arrests decreased this year, Davis believes.
The year's first Northern Arizona DUI Task Force saturation patrol, composed of four participating agencies, did yield six DUI arrests – two fewer arrests than last year's patrol.
"Anytime we see a decrease in the number of arrests it's a good thing," Davis said. "It's still a good amount for one night … but for every one they arrest, you never know how many more are out there. We'll never get them all … unless we get real lucky."
The task force made no extreme or aggravated DUI arrests this year.
The average blood alcohol content for those they arrested was 0.11 percent – well above the minimum DUI BAC level of 0.08 but below the extreme DUI BAC level of 0.15.
The Prescott Police Department is the host agency for the annual patrol. According to Prescott Police Sgt. Rich Gill, the task force usually is made up of about 15 officers from law enforcement agencies from around the tri-city area.
This year only 11 officers participated – three from the Prescott Police Department, two from the Prescott Valley Police Department, three from the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office and three from the Department of Public Safety. The Chino Valley Police Department participated in last year's enforcement detail but did not participate this year.
Prescott police officers arrested two people for DUIs. Prescott Valley police made no DUI arrests. YCSO deputies made three DUI arrests and the Department of Public Safety made one. This year's task force saw a decrease in the number of DUI arrests and a lower average BAC level for those arrested.
"Which is good," Davis said. "The higher (BAC level) they are, the less they function."
They also saw a decrease in the number of seatbelt violations. There was an increase in the number of miscellaneous citations they issued.
Officers reported seven citations for seatbelt violations but no citations for child restraint violations. They issued a total of 107 miscellaneous citations.
Last New Year's Eve, the task force made 8 DUI arrests, Gill said. The average blood alcohol content was 0.13 percent. They issued 56 miscellaneous citations, found 21 seatbelt violations and arrested one person on a drug charge.
Davis attributes the decrease in DUI activity to an increase in public awareness.
"It used to be a 'social mistake,' but now it's not," he said. "People are now much more aware that it's a crime."
According to Arizona law, a person convicted of DUI will spend at least 24 hours in jail and as long as six months in jail, temporary loss of driving privileges and it will cost between $445 and $4,425 in fines, and classes that the court often orders. Judges often require DUI offenders to do community service as well.
And that is for first-time offenders with a BAC of more than 0.08 percent but less than 0.15.
"The penalties are ever increasing," Davis said.
Contact C. Murphy Hébert at firstname.lastname@example.org