Vail Daily letter: Jail necessary for DUIs
Vail, CO, Colorado
I’m sending this letter in response to your May 11 article regarding the Sheriff’s Office policy on DUI arrests. I work in the Squaw Valley-Truckee, California, area as a law enforcement officer. I have been in law enforcement for over 20 years. I work in an area similar to yours with a number of visitors and residents traveling on our roads, and some have too much to drink. I personally arrest 40 to 50 DUI drivers a year.
I could not believe what I was reading. To begin with, allowing DUI drivers to be released to a sober responsible person is a joke. Your county is opening itself up to a major lawsuit if this person is allowed to be released while under the influence. They could drive again, and there is the possibility they could hurt themselves or an innocent person. Every person I arrest is taken to jail. The majority of the people I arrest have never been arrested for anything. They might have a minor traffic offense on their record.
In a very short time, reality kicks in. They are being treated like any other criminal. They are fingerprinted and have their photo taken, and their names are released and posted in the local newspaper. They are normally only held for five hours or less, but in that time they have seen what it’s like to lose their liberties.
Most people are never arrested again for DUI. In addition, the sheriff of our county charges the arrestee for being booked, and my department charges the arrestee for my time. This is in addition to the fines, loss of driver’s license and vehicle-impound fees they have to pay.
There was a comment made by Sheriff Joe Hoy that if someone is taken to jail, another officer must cover the area. I don’t know how long it takes to process a DUI driver in your county, but I’m normally off the beat for approximately one hour. I normally work with just one or two other units. We are able to survive, and if we have a major incident go down, we can get mutual aid from other agencies.
My suggestion for your county: Your sheriff’s department should charge any DUI arrestee $500 for the officer’s time to book the suspect. They can then put them in a drunk tank and let them sober up for a few hours. The jail I work with only has six cells and is referred to as “Mayberry.”
DUI drivers need to realize drinking and driving don’t mix and when they are caught, they have to pay the price. Paying just a fine is not the answer. Sitting in a small jail cell behind bars for just a few hours can be a reality check.
I have lost two friends in the line of duty because of drunken drivers. In my opinion, if people are not held accountable for their actions, they will never learn or care to learn.