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July DUIs might hit triple digits

Posted: July 24, 2011 1:30 a.m.
Updated: July 24, 2011 1:30 a.m.
Deputy Jonn Eidem handles Gunner, an alcohol- and marijuana-sniffing Labrador at a DUI and driver’s license checkpoint on Valencia Boulevard west of Bouquet Canyon Road in Valencia on July 15. Deputy Jonn Eidem handles Gunner, an alcohol- and marijuana-sniffing Labrador at a DUI and driver’s license checkpoint on Valencia Boulevard west of Bouquet Canyon Road in Valencia on July 15.
Deputy Jonn Eidem handles Gunner, an alcohol- and marijuana-sniffing Labrador at a DUI and driver’s license checkpoint on Valencia Boulevard west of Bouquet Canyon Road in Valencia on July 15.

About half of all criminal suspects booked by sheriff’s deputies and California Highway Patrol officers so far this month in the SCV were charged with driving while under the influence of alcohol, a survey by The Signal shows.

That’s more than 90 people so far this month, meaning it’s likely that approximately 100 people will face those charges by the end of  July.

Most of those arrested are adult males.

The suspects are blue collar, white collar, executives, construction workers, those in retail, sales, horse trainers and personal trainers, managers in charge of quality control and nutritionists prescribing healthy diets and — as was the case July 15 — at least one preacher.

“The worst-case scenario (of driving under the influence is) you kill somebody when you’re driving drunk,” Deputy Gregory Hutt of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station said Saturday.

But a DUI conviction carries enormous monetary costs, as well.

On Thursday, a 44-year-old woman charged July 17 with DUI after allegedly crashing into a row of parked cars, showed up at the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station asking about the condition of her damaged car, Hutt said.

The woman — now expected to appear in court on charges for allegedly downing half a pint of vodka before getting behind the wheel of her car — couldn’t afford to pay the $4,000 to take care of her car.

“You have attorneys’ fees, insurance rates that go up for 10 years, maybe a loss of income because you lost your license and you can’t drive to work,” Hutt said.

Despite the consequences, both human and monetary, scores of working people in the Santa Clarita Valley risk driving while intoxicated.

Added Charges
Two hours before the 44-year-old woman drove her car into a row of parked cars, sheriff’s deputies arrested a 24-year-old man who had crashed his car in the area of Railroad Avenue and Newhall Avenue.

Arresting deputies wrote in their report: “The suspect told me that he drank three beers at his friend’s house one hour prior to collision.”

When they asked for his driver’s license, deputies were allegedly handed false paperwork.

The man was charged with possessing false documents and driving without a valid driver’s license, in addition to the DUI charge.

Deputies wrote in their report: “He said he got (the false documents) in L.A. for $80.”

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1,427,494 people were arrested nationwide for drunk driving in 2007.
For that same year, 11,780 fatal accidents occurred nationally in which the driver was above the legal limit for blood alcohol content, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Sobriety tests
On Wednesday about 1:35 a.m., deputies spotted a motorist who allegedly failed to come to a complete stop while making a right turn onto Railroad at Eighth Street.

According to the report filed by deputies: “The suspect stated, ‘I had a couple of drinks.’  I asked suspect one what type of drinks. Suspect one stated, ‘I had a beer and a Jack and Coke.’ I had suspect one exit the vehicle to conduct a driving-under-the-influence investigation.”

Once deputies suspect a motorist of being intoxicated — either by smelling alcohol or detecting physical impairment — they typically ask the motorist to perform a series of actions that constitute a field sobriety test.

The standardized tests include:
n a balance test called a Romberg test
n a walk-and-turn test
n a test to see how well the suspect balances on one leg
n a finger-to-nose test for which deputies can make a number of observations, including: “starts too soon, opens eyes, does not return hand to side, uses wrong hand, eye-lid tremors.”

The 23-year-old was taken to the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station for a breath test and allegedly found to have a blood alcohol content of 0.11 percent, after which the suspect refused any further chemical testing.

Acceptable blood alcohol content levels vary state-to-state, but California’s legal limit remains 0.08 percent. This measurement is a reflection of one percent of blood alcohol content by volume, or 1/100 grams of alcohol per milliliter of blood.

On Tuesday just before 10:30 p.m., a motorist suspected of drunken driving was found slumped behind the wheel of his crashed Honda Element in the heart of Santa Clarita in front of the Sheriff’s Station.

A deputy responding to the crash on Valencia Boulevard, just west of Magic Mountain Parkway, found a damaged sport utility vehicle, bent tire, exploded side air bags and a driver sitting in the front seat.

He reported: “The front passenger side tire of the vehicle was turned in, and the passenger side air bags were deployed.
The driver was still sitting in the driver’s seat.”

When the suspected driver got out of his vehicle, he “staggered as he took a step and lost his balance,” the deputy reported. “Suspect one raised his arms up and grabbed his right arm to prevent him from falling over.

“I asked suspect one if he remembered hitting curb. Suspect one stated, ‘I’m not sure. It’s been a long night.’”

The deputy noted he smelled alcohol on the man’s breath, noticed his eyes were “bloodshot and watery,” and heard slow speech.

He reported: “I asked suspect one what kind of drinks did he have. Suspect one stated ‘not sure.’”

What deputies are sure of from the incident, however, is a breath sample taken from their suspect  showed a blood/alcohol level of 0.262.

At the end of the night, one more vehicle was hauled off to the towing company yard and a 23-year-old man joined almost 100 others suspected of drunken driving in Santa Clarita Valley in July.

Several charges
On Thursday, a 29-year-old marketing executive from Valencia was charged with driving while under the influence of alcohol, his bail posted at $5,000.

On Wednesday, a 48-year-old professional woman who lives in Stevenson Ranch and who works as a personal trainer faced the same charge, her bail posted at $25,000.

Also on Wednesday, a 22-year-old retail worker from Canyon Country, an out-of-town salesman age 46, and a 35-year-old Valencia man who runs his own company were all charged with DUI separately, each with bail posted at $5,000.

Two other DUI charges filed mid-week included: a 34-year-old unemployed man from Fontana and a 46-year-old Saugus man employed as a radiology technician. Both men had their bail set at $15,000.

On Tuesday, DUI charges were filed against a 44-year-old Stevenson Ranch man who owns his own salon and a 37-year-old construction worker from Simi Valley.

The last half of last week — from July 13-17 — saw more nighttime arrests for drunken driving than all those filed this past week.

Most of those charges were filed July 15 - the day sheriff’s deputies conducted a DUI checkpoint.

Those charged include: a horse trainer, age 41; three unemployed local men, two aged 24, one 20; three Canyon Country students, age 20, 22 and 23; a sales woman, 18; an animal technician, 29; a 62-year-old preacher; a shift supervisor, 37; a quality control manager, 41; a cook from Canyon Country, 29; a Newhall nutritionist, 19; a telecommunications businessman from Fair Oaks Ranch, 49;  a North Hollywood construction worker, age 31; a tire technician from Lake Havasu, 41; a claims adjuster from Palmdale, 41; a Valencia insurance salesman, 43.

DUI charges filed earlier in the week — from July 11 to July 13 — went to a tattoo artist from Agua Dulce, a Saugus social worker, a Canyon Country transient, a Valencia teenager and other others.


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