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Santa Maria approves grant to fight DUIs

Posted at 3:01 PM, Sep 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-21 18:01:53-04

Santa Maria will be getting a $385,000 grant from California’s Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) Selective Traffic Enforcement Program (STEP) to keep drunk drivers off the street.

Early on the morning of Sept. 20, a drunk driver crashed into a power pole near the 900 block of E. Stowell Rd. and Concepcion Ave.

Police tweeted that his blood alcohol level was three times over the legal limit.

Santa Maria police say they’ve seen an increase in the number of people driving under the influence.

According to police, there were 105 alcohol-related collisions in Santa Maria in 2016, 164 in 2017, and 105 so far in 2018.

KSBY spoke to several personal injury and criminal lawyers in Santa Maria about the legal process once someone is arrested for a DUI.

“If there is no accident or injury, you’re probably going to get a license suspension depending on what your alcohol rating is,” said William Gamble, a personal injury and criminal attorney who has been practicing law in Santa Maria for 50 years. “It would depend on how long that license suspension is for.”

Jail time and fines could also be on the table, sometimes thousands of dollars if you cause an accident or injury, like hitting a power pole.

License suspension, fines, jail time and alcohol class requirements can skyrocket with each following DUI. It can sometimes lead to felony charges.

Santa Maria police said alcohol isn’t the only problem. Some people are also driving under the influence of drugs like marijuana and prescription medications.

“I get many cases with prescription drugs where the people are prescribed drugs and they are legally taking those drugs but they can’t drive properly and that’s a violation. That’s a drunk driving charge also,” Gamble added.

Police used last year’s grant for education, prevention and arrests.

“We have DUI saturations where we primarily go out and look for DUIs. We have 34 of those throughout the grant cycle year. We also have DUI checkpoints,” said Sgt. Duane Schneider, Santa Maria Police Department.

The new grant will fund traffic safety efforts from Oct. 1, 2018 to Sept. 31, 2019.