VENTURA, Calif. – District Attorney Gregory D. Totten has announced that, for the seventh consecutive year, the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office has been awarded a special DUI prosecution grant from the California Office of Traffic and Safety. The $413,248 grant will once again fund a vertical prosecution team that will work cases from arrest through sentencing.
The vertical prosecution team is comprised of two-full time deputy district attorneys who are dedicated solely to felony alcohol and drugged DUI prevention and prosecution. This team will handle cases throughout each step of the criminal process. The team is designed to aggressively prosecute impaired drivers within Ventura County, while simultaneously raising public awareness of the fatal consequences caused by drivers under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, both illegal and prescription. In fatal and major injury DUI vehicle collisions, members of the team may respond to the crash scene to participate in the investigation.
Prosecution team members will work with the State’s Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutor Program to expand knowledge and resources in the office by obtaining and delivering specialized training, including training in the emerging problem of drug-impaired driving. Team members will share information with peers and law enforcement personnel throughout the county and across the state.
In the past year under the 2016-2017 OTS grant, the vertical prosecution team filed 357 felony and misdemeanor cases of driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs. This was 76 more than the previous year. Of those cases, 199 were drugged DUIs or a combination of drugs and alcohol DUIs. The office as a whole filed 2,924 DUI cases in the same time period.
The purpose of the program is to prevent impaired driving and reduce alcohol and drug-impaired traffic fatalities and injuries. According to the California Highway Patrol’s latest data, there were 20 deaths and 347 serious injuries as a result of DUI collisions in Ventura County in 2014. The number of fatalities in 2014 increased 67 percent from 2013.
“When there is a trained, seasoned and committed team working serious DUI cases, prosecutors get the positive results needed,” said OTS Director Rhonda Craft. “The Office of Traffic Safety and the Ventura County District Attorney’s Office will be working together to help keep the streets and highways safe across Ventura County and the state.”
The need for this program is now more critical than ever. For the last three fiscal years, there has been a steady increase in the number of DUI drug cases filed:
• 103 in 2014/2015
• 158 in 2015/2016
• 215 in 2016/2017
Likewise, there has been an increase in the number of felony DUI with injury cases in the last five years:
• 75 in 2012/2013
• 99 in 2013/2014
• 114 in 2014/2015
• 117 in 2015/2016
• 133 in 2016/2017
Funding for the program comes from a grant by the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The Ventura County District Attorney’s Office is the public prosecutor for the county’s 850,000 residents. The office employs approximately 280 employees including attorneys, investigators, victim advocates, and other professional support staff who strive to seek justice, ensure public safety, and protect the rights of crime victims.