LOS ANGELES – City Attorney Mike Feuer today warned Angelenos about the heightened risks of driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs during the holidays, especially while Southern California hospitals are overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients. Feuer also announced that, for the ninth consecutive year, his Office has been awarded a Driving Prosecution Grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) to expand prosecution efforts targeting drivers who are impaired.
"It's essential during this holiday season to remind people about how dangerous driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both, can be. Even in a year of Safer at Home Orders, my Office has prosecuted more than 5,000 drivers, just since January. If you are under the influence, avert a tragedy and stay off the road," said Feuer. "We’re also facing the nightmare scenario of overwhelmed hospitals and ICUs at capacity. If you’re in a car accident, either as a driver or passenger, it could be very hard to get help."
Despite bars, restaurants and nightclubs shut down, and parties mostly banned for large swaths of the year, driving under the influence cases are still plentiful. From January 1 through December 1 of this year, the City Attorney’s Office filed 5,085 total DUI cases. Of these, 4,601were tied to alcohol, 384 were related to drugs, and 100 were a combination of both. Of the total, 308 were additional filings against drivers for allegedly flouting the Ignition Interlock Device (IID) requirement. Similar to a breathalyzer, IIDs require periodic samples to ensure that alcohol has not been consumed behind the wheel. These are required by the DMV to be installed if a person has been convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol. Failure to have an IID is a separate misdemeanor that could result in an additional fine of up to $5000.00 and/or six months of County jail. Feuer has long been a champion of Ignition Interlock Devices to prevent traffic fatalities. As a member of the California Assembly, he authored the Bill (AB 91) in 2009 which created this law.
For the ninth consecutive year, Feuer’s Office has been awarded a Driving Prosecution Grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. This year’s grant of $980,000 will continue to support the City Attorney’s criminal prosecutions of both alcohol and drug-impaired driving cases and overall efforts to prevent impaired driving and reduce fatalities and injuries. Through the grant, members of Feuer’s Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (DUI-D) Unit will work with the California Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutor Training Network to expand their knowledge and resources through specialized training, including on drug-impaired driving. DUI-D members will share this information with peers and law enforcement partners throughout the City and across the State.
"If you drink or use drugs and decide to drive, you put lives at risk,” OTS Director Barbara Rooney said. “This funding from the OTS makes sure that those who make the choice to drive under the influence are held accountable for their actions."
In partnership with OTS and the TSRP, Feuer’s DUI-D Unit is also leading a statewide data collection effort aimed at more fully understanding the impact of impaired driving. Among the data points being examined are the effects of cannabis on drivers, the crash risk associated with different drugs and different combinations of drugs, the time of the blood draw as it relates to burn-off rates and impaired driving differences between men and women. This information will give lawmakers the tools they need to implement sentencing enhancements for certain drugs that present higher risks than others.
Feuer’s DUI-D Unit is comprised of Deputy City Attorneys Magdalena Casas, Anthony King and George Topchyan. Led by Farhad Khadem, a subject matter expert on DUI-D they manage cases from arrest through sentencing. The team is additionally supported by Administrative Coordinator, Vanessa Chavez.