Is DUI an issue in El Paso?

DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE

El Paso, Texas, is no different than any other city in the nation; it too has its driving under the influence (DUI) problems within its city limits. When such an incident occurs, not only is the driver affected as well as the immediate family, children, injured victim (if there is one), work and community.

Ironically, often the family is aware of the DUI drivers drinking problem that can lead to a deadly consequence. Like most caring families, they attempt to make the DUI driver aware of the many implications of drinking and driving. Some of the consequences can be driver’s license suspension, fees and fines, high insurance premiums, court-mandated community service, participation in drunk education programs, and even jail time.

 

POLICE DUI STATISTICS

Texas Department of Public Saftey
Texas Department of Public Saftey

Texas Department of Public Safety 2017 DWI reported that the El Paso Police Department arrested 1,858 drivers for DWI in 2015. Of those arrested, 282 were found not guilty, 336 were dismissed, and 1,240 were found guilty. Could using a scare straight tactic on a DUI driver be effective? For example, they can be told that police officers are well trained in detecting DUI drivers on public roads, and their chances of being apprehended and charged with DUI is high and unavoidable.

 

INVESTIGATION LEGAL LIMITATIONS

Perhaps using scare tactics on DUI drivers can be a useful tool. For example, those prone to DUI can be reminded that police can stop their vehicle on a public road and search the car without a search warrant when the officer has probable cause due to a traffic violation. For example, a broken headlight, non-working brake lights, or expired plates can be indicators for a legal stop. Keep in mind, that the officer does not have to have an “ulterior motive” when stopping a suspected DUI vehicle.

DUI Check point
DUI Check point

All Texas drivers must understand that the officer’s purpose in an ordinary traffic stop is to enforce the laws of the roadway, and ordinarily to investigate the manner of driving with the intent to issue a citation or warning. Such authority is vested upon law enforcement by Ferris v. State, (1999).

Once the officer stops a driver, the officer may converse with the driver to obtain needed information such as, “What’s your name,” “Do you have identification with you?” and “Do you have car insurance?” The driver should realize that the officer is attempting to detect slur speech, bloodshot eyes, and or detect the smell of alcohol. The officer has the authority to ask the driver out of a vehicle following a lawful traffic stop, and conduct a limited search of his outer clothing to discover the presence of any weapons. A driver, who has been drinking alcohol, will often find it difficult to hide that fact when conversing with an officer during a traffic stop.

 

ATTEMPTING TO AVOID BEING STOPPED

Most drivers, who drink before driving, believe that they can successfully avoid being stopped by police while driving. Some will chew gum, drink black coffee, and unintentionally drive too fast or too slow. Some drivers will operate their vehicle excessively carefully and guardedly. The most visible sign of a driver that has been drinking alcohol is when the driver pretends not to see emergency lights or hear a siren, or immediately after stopping, the driver quickly exits his vehicle and approaches the police car even before the officer can exit. No matter the case, officers are trained to detect such behavioral actions that may lead officers to suspect DUI.

 

ADDING REHABILITATION

In El Paso, Texas, a DUI arrestee found guilty can be given a second chance by placing a person found guilty of DUI into an intense 14-month program that focuses on treating addiction as an illness and not treating the participants as criminals.  This DWI Intervention and Treatment Program is run by County Criminal Court at Law 2 Judge Robert Anchondo.

Judge Robert Anchondo
Judge Robert Anchondo

“It is intense and it is a five-phase program,” Anchondo said.

“We start upfront with a very intense treatment program, meaning we give a high dose of treatment and counseling because that is where we need to start changing their behavior right then and there. That phase will last about two months, if everything is going well, then on to the second phase, third phase, fourth phase and the fifth stage is where you are usually preparing to exit.”

Prominent El Paso defense attorney Justin Underwood said the program has had a massive impact on repeat offenders who need and want help.

 

STEPS TO REDUCE DUI IN EL PASO

For El Paso, like any city in the US, to decidedly reduce DUI offenses, the city needs to take extreme action that may give support to family members attempting to discourage drinking and driving. First, a massive radio, television, and newspaper campaign on DUI consequences must be introduced to the public; second, anti-DUI education should be part of school curriculum in the middle school, high school, and college level. Lastly, every city the US should implement a well financially supported DWI Intervention and Treatment Program that may address convicted DUI offenders.

El Paso police officer hit by drunk driver
El Paso police officer hit by drunk driver

Perhaps in removing the alcohol culture, we can start to promote drinking alcohol to the point of intoxication as socially irresponsible.  Also, presenting society with a realistic view of legal and personal harm, to individuals consuming an extreme amount of alcohol, will make them aware of the extended collateral consequence to all involved in the DUI driver’s life.

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