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Arizona Holiday DUI Task Force Catches Few Drunk Drivers

Posted by Shawn Hamp | Jan 04, 2017 | 0 Comments

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Only 4% of Drivers Arrested For DUI During 2016 Holiday Task Force

Dennis Welch, political reporter for news channel 3 in Phoenix, recently wrote an article on AZfamily.comthat the Arizona Holiday DUI Task Force for 2016 netted few DUI arrest even though 38,000 traffic stops were performed so far during the annual period law enforcement patrols.

The Arizona DUI Holiday task force was launched immediately after Thanksgiving. It is part of the Arizona Governor's Office of Highway Safety efforts to target drunk drivers every holiday season during the annual celebration period.

The office is funded in large part by federal grants totaling over one million dollars.  Most of the money is used by law enforcement agencies to pay for over-time of officers that participate in the patrols.  Welch reports that over 8,000 police officers, deputies, and state troopers take part in the annual program.

In Mohave County, the Mohave County Sheriff, Kingman, Bullhead, Lake Havasu City police departments along with the Arizona Department of Public Safety are part of the Western Arizona DUI task force.  The Western Arizona DUI task force sponsors increased DUI patrols from law enforcement agencies along the Colorado River areas in western Arizona.  The Kingman Police Department was recently rewarded with a $20,000 grant from the Arizona Governor's Office for Highway Safety to increase DUI patrols from Oct. 1st to Sept. 30th of 2017.

The mission is simple. Stop all motorist for traffic violations, even minor infractions, to check for DUI driving.  A police officer only needs reasonable suspicion that a traffic violations occurs to make a traffic stop, but must have probable cause to make a DUI arrest.

When an officer encounters an impaired driver, the officer looks for “cues of impairment” to make a DUI arrest.  These cues could be the result from bad driving (swerving, improper lane change, slow speed) that lead to the traffic stop.  These cues could also include signs such as slurred speech, slow reaction times, or odor of alcohol when a police officer encounters the driver during the traffic stop itself.

One problem is that not all traffic infractions are necessarily a cue of impaired driving.  Infractions such as excessive speed, improper license plates, cell phone use, seat belt violations, and rolling traffic stops for example are not specifically recognized cues of impairment by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).  But targeting ALL traffic violations is a stated strategy by the task force to catch impaired drivers.

Of the 38,000 traffic stops during the 2016 Holiday enforcement period, only 1,634 arrest resulted in DUI arrest (about 4%).  Only 40% or 15,542 received any traffic citations, and over 50% received no traffic citations at all.

Many agree that stopping DUI drivers is a good thing. It is clear however that the broad net used to catch DUI drivers has resulted so far in catching a low percentage of impaired drivers.

About the Author

Shawn Hamp

President and lead counsel for the Law Offices of Shawn B. Hamp, P.C. (An Arizona Professional Corporation), Shawn Hamp has practiced law for more than 15 years with an emphasis in criminal law. An experienced trial attorney, Mr. Hamp has been lead counsel in hundreds of criminal trials and court...

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