DUI Enforcement Funding Diminishing

By: Michael Gorsegner
By: Michael Gorsegner

May 22, 2006

"I have five titanium plates in my head, 30 something screws, a plastic socket that holds up my left eyeball because the bones were so vaporized in the crash they were never going to grow back," said Andrew Torget.

Andrew Torget is lucky to be alive today after a drunk driver nearly killed him on Christmas Eve six years ago. Torget is among the nearly 500,000 people a year injured in drunk driving crashes. But even though those numbers have virtually stayed the same in the past three years, funding for enforcement has diminished.

"Money at the federal level has been spent on fighting the war on terrorism which does impact the money that would come to state and local level law enforcement for DUI enforcement," said Corporal Rob Heide.

Corporal Heide with Albemarle County Police says funding for DUI enforcement has become much tighter since 9-11. The county has received three mini grants since 2001, totaling $6,000. And while the lack of funds has not stopped enforcement, more money would be beneficial.

"It's not a make it or break it type of grant, it's a grant that enhances the operation that the department wants to take on," Heide said.

"Have you had anything to drink tonight?" said Officer Jeff Sandridge.

The City of Charlottesville has received one $2,700 mini grant in the past several years. The lack of funding has meant no DUI checkpoints, rather the need for old fashion police work.

"I think a lot of my DUI's are from speeding, getting speeders," said Sandridge.

Sandridge recently won an award for most DUI arrests last year, collaring 48 drivers. We rode along with him to see the methods he uses to catch these offenders.

"I start asking questions. You start watching their body language. You ask for simple commands like license and registration and see how long it takes them to get their license or registration out. You see if they have problems with that. You check their eyes."

Sandridge says DUI arrests are time consuming for officers. Paperwork following an arrest can take several hours and that does not include testifying during any court proceedings. A time consuming process that Andrew Torget says keeps our streets safe.

"People tonight and people tomorrow are going to get home safely and never know that they can thank one of these officers because they took a drunk driver off the road that would have otherwise killed or injured somebody," he said.

Albemarle County Police have a grant pending for $3,250 from DMV for DUI saturation patrols. They find out if they are going to get that grant next month. As for Charlottesville City, they say they are going to actively pursue more grants this coming year.

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