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The Sedona police force plans to exercise “zero tolerance” regarding DUIs on New Year’s Eve, Sunday, Dec. 31, with saturation patrols.
By Trista Steers
Larson Newspapers
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The Sedona police force plans to exercise “zero tolerance” regarding DUIs on New Year’s Eve, Sunday, Dec. 31, with saturation patrols.

SPD added two officers to Sunday night’s regular patrol squad.

SPD joins other Northern Arizona law enforcement agencies in an Arizona Governor’s Office of Highway Safety holiday task force to stop drunk driving.

“We want to catch them and get them off the street as much and as often during the holidays,” SPD Chief Joe Vernier said.

The GOHS reported 2,399 DUI arrests across the state from Thanksgiving, Nov. 24, 2005, to New Year’s Day, Jan. 1, 2006.

GOHS recorded even higher numbers for 2004. From Thanksgiving, Nov. 25, 2004, to New Year’s Day, Jan. 1, 2005, Arizona law enforcement made 2,591 DUI arrests.

SPD Cmdr. Ron Wheeler said Sedona has seen increases in arrests since participating in the task force.

“We’ve seen an increase,” Wheeler said, “and one of the reasons we see an increase in arrests is because we have more officers on the road.”

Two SPD officers volunteered to work overtime on Sunday night.

Also, Wheeler said, officers from other Northern Arizona agencies may help Sunday.

“We’ll have a few extra cars on that night,” Wheeler said.

On Saturday, SPD is sending two officers to Flagstaff to help with its task force.

Officers can only stop vehicles if there is reasonable cause, SPD officer Chris Stevens said.

Often, Wheeler said, officers stop vehicles for minor violations that go unticketed just to check for drunk drivers.

“Usually the DUIs come from equipment violations,” Wheeler said.

Burned-out taillights, license plate lights or headlights are reasonable causes to stop a vehicle.

Once a vehicle is stopped, officers look for signs of impairment such as the smell of alcohol, slurred speech, watery eyes or strange behavior.

“You can watch their mannerism,” Stevens said.

If an officer detects signs of impairment, he or she can ask the individual to step out of the vehicle and perform field sobriety tests.

Based on all observations during the traffic stop, officers will decide if the driver needs to be brought in.

At the police station, drunk drivers are booked and transported to Yavapai County Detention Center in Camp Verde.

Sometimes, officers conduct cite-and-releases in the field. If this happens, drivers aren’t transported.

This won’t happen on New Year’s Eve, Wheeler said.

“On DUI night,” Wheeler said, “no one gets cited and released. “If you fail, you go to jail.”

DUI offenses carry swift penalties.

After going to jail upon arrest, violators face additional jail time, fines, loss of drivers’ licenses and possibly counseling and probation.

First-time regular DUI offenders — those with a blood alcohol content above 0.08 percent — face 10 days in jail, at least $750 in fines, loss of drivers’ licenses for 90 days and possibly counseling and probation upon referral.

Extreme DUI offenders — those with a blood alcohol content over 0.15 percent — face 30 days in jail, $1,500 in fines, loss of drivers’ licenses for 90 days,

possible counseling and probation upon referral and installation of a breath alcohol ignition interlock device.

An ignition interlock device requires motorists to blow into an alcohol detector before operating the vehicle.

As the severity and number of DUI citations increase, the penalties become heavier.

SPD encourages people celebrating the new year with alcohol to arrange for a safe ride home.

“We’re an expensive taxi service,” Stevens said.


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