Avon gets tougher on DUIs
Avon, CO Colorado
AVON, Colorado – The Avon Police Department’s pilot program for repeat drunk drivers is under way, and Police Chief Brian Kozak is sure that once a case goes through the courts, other police agencies in Colorado will follow suit.
The “No Refusal Program” targets drunk drivers who have been caught driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol before, Kozak said.
“Repeat offenders are a serious issue,” he said. “One in three offenders who have been arrested for DUI have been (arrested for DUI) before.”
When someone refuses to give a blood or breath sample they automatically lose their driver’s license for one year in Colorado. Repeat offenders tend to know that law because they’ve been through the system before, Kozak said, and losing a driver’s license for one year is a better deal than going through the court system.
“A person would rather face the suspension than criminal prosecution,” he said. “In the past (before the program), at this point, we’re done.”
But the No Refusal Program gives police an extra tool in finding out a person’s blood alcohol level, which ultimately gives the courts an extra tool in prosecuting drunk drivers. Under the program, when someone refuses a breath or blood test, the police officer can call a specially trained police officer to come to the scene. That officer then calls the district attorney if there’s enough probable cause to believe the person is under the influence.
If the district attorney agrees with the police, he then calls a judge to approve a search warrant, which can force the driver to give the blood or breath test.
“One of the most affective means to prevent DUIs is to let the public know there is a real chance you will get caught,” Kozak said.
The police would only use this method sometimes, when the district attorney and judge have agreed to be on call throughout the night in order to get the warrant. The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office is also starting the program, Kozak said.
Councilman Dave Dantas asked whether the program was a liability to the town, but Town Attorney Eric Heil said the Avon police would be operating under the state with the search warrants.
“It’s up to the district attorney, if someone challenges it, to be able to defend the search warrant,” Heil said.
Town council members also talked about the possibility of imposing a fine for anyone who refuses to submit a blood or breath test in the town, but Heil said he needed to look into whether that would violate the state laws.
“It wouldn’t hurt if people said Avon was a place you don’t want to drive under the influence of anything,” said Mayor Ron Wolfe.
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