There has been a 33% increase in driving under the influence or DUI cases in Monterey County this past fiscal year. The district attorney is trying to tackle this problem.
In 2011, the Monterey County DA’s Office set up a special unit that focused on prosecuting alcohol and drug-impaired driving cases.
This fiscal year (Oct. 1, 2019 to Sept. 30, 2020), the unit is funded with a $244,722 grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS).
“There is a veteran prosecutor assigned to that unit and that's all she does,” said Marisol Y. Mendez, Monterey County’s managing deputy district attorney. She mainly focuses on grant-funded units, which include fraud, DUI and prisons.
Mendez says the unit will also train law enforcement officers and other prosecutors.
Monterey County needs a team like this because DUIs are a significant problem in the community. That’s according to District Attorney Jeannine M. Pacioni.
“We are statistically very high offenders for driving while intoxicated. And that's a combination of both alcohol and other influence drugs like cannabis, heroin, opiates, cocaine, methamphetamine,” Pacioni said.
She thinks a few factors are to blame for the increase in impaired driving this year.
“I definitely think that the legalizing of cannabis has contributed to that increase. It's also better educated law enforcement officers,” said Pacioni.
The consequences for driving while impaired include possible fines, community service and jail time.
First time DUI offenders could be looking at a year in jail, that’s if there were no injuries. If you do kill someone while driving intoxicated, you could be charged with murder and face 15 years to life in prison.