Yolo County District Attorney Jeff Reisig announced this week that the California Office of Traffic Safety has awarded the District Attorney’s Office a $233,295 grant for the prosecution of drunken-driving cases.
As a result of the OTS funding, trained staff members can focus attention and resources on repeat offenders and drivers who cause collisions where there is an injury or fatality.
The grant will continue to fund the District Attorney’s vertical prosecution unit, allowing one prosecutor to handle a case through all stages of the criminal process, from the time of the arrest through sentencing.
The purpose of the program is to prevent impaired driving and reduce alcohol- and drug-impaired traffic fatalities and injuries. In 2012 and 2013 to date, there were seven deaths and 36 injuries in Yolo County as a result of DUI crashes.
The funding also allows the team to assist law enforcement in the investigation of fatal and major injury collisions, Reisig said.
According to Chief Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Raven, the District Attorney’s Office prosecutes thousands of DUIs each year. While many of the cases are alcohol-related, the office has seen a spike in the number of drug-related DUIs in the county.
Drivers commonly are being found under the influence of marijuana, prescription drugs, illegal street drugs such as methamphetamine, or a combination of drugs and alcohol.
Prosecution team members will work with the State’s Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutor Program to obtain and deliver specialized training, including training in the emerging problem of drug-impaired driving, to peers and law enforcement throughout the county and across the state.
The Yolo County team is made up of Deputy District Attorney Matt De Moura, retired CHP sergeant and current DA investigator John Shugart, and legal secretary Lori Castaneda. The team is entering its second year.
Last month, the team, along with Deputy District Attorney Martha Holzapfel, successfully prosecuted a Redwood City man, Reyes Barajas, of two counts of second-degree murder in connection with the September 2012 DUI crash that killed his wife and teenage son.
The defendant, who had a blood-alcohol level of 0.19 at the time of the crash, had previously been convicted of three separate DUIs and was sentenced last month to 30 years to life in state prison.
Reisig expressed gratitude for the state funding.
“This funding from OTS will allow us to focus increased efforts on a problem that presents a dangerous risk to Yolo County citizens every time they get behind the wheel of their car,” Reisig said. “The Barajas DUI murder case is a perfect example of the success of this dedicated unit.”
Funding for the program comes from a grant by the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.