Fri. Feb 23rd, 2024

SANTA ANA, Calif. – The Orange County District Attorney’s Office (OCDA) is proud to announce that it has been chosen by the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) to continue serving as the statewide traffic safety training agency in an ongoing effort to combat drugged and drunk driving across California.

OTS has awarded the OCDA two grants totaling $1.8 million in order to fund the office’s Alcohol and Drug Impaired Driver Vertical Prosecution Program, which dedicates eight prosecutors to prosecuting drugged and drunk driving cases, as well as continue the California Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutor Training Network, which trains California law enforcement and prosecutors on how to effectively prosecute driving under the influence cases.

Unfortunately, the number of drug-impaired driving cases investigated and prosecuted across California has increased in the wake of the state’s 2016 decriminalization of marijuana.

“I have committed my public safety career to stopping drunk and drugged driving,” said Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer. “Over the last few months, drunk and drugged driving has reached crisis levels in Orange County. The unnecessary loss of life is why I, as a member of the State Assembly, authored the Steve Ambriz Act to require every Californian who wants a driver’s license to sign a form that states he or she has been advised that being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both, impairs the ability to safely operate a motor vehicle, and if they do so anyway and someone is killed, they can be charged with murder. These valuable grant dollars will help to make our roadways safer and save innocent lives.”

The Orange County District Attorney’s Office has taken the statewide lead in providing police officers and prosecutors with cutting edge training to hold drugged and drunk drivers accountable and make California streets safer.”

OCDA was awarded $761,738 for the Alcohol and Drug Impaired Driver Vertical Prosecution Program and $1,039,400 for the California Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutor Training Network.

In 2011, OCDA developed a multi-agency collaborative driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) prosecution, investigation and toxicology model which has served as the innovative foundation to develop a statewide program.

In October 2016, OCDA expanded its traffic safety training role to the Southern California region, serving as the lead agency in prosecution and law enforcement training. This includes the delivery of live trainings, roundtables, training videos, and legal updates. In 2017, OCDA began to develop a statewide training program through its administration of the Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutor (TSRP) Training Network. As part of this process, OCDA has begun to align law enforcement and prosecution agencies throughout the state to create a massive statewide training, resource and education network. This responsibility offers agencies throughout the state the opportunity to share expertise in the area of traffic safety as the OCDA works in partnership to proactively investigate and prosecute traffic related crimes, increasing public safety in all jurisdictions throughout California. 

During the 2020 grant year, despite the challenges confronted due to the travel and gathering limitations caused by the Coronavirus pandemic, our TSRP team conducted more than 25 trainings to prosecutors, peace officers, toxicologists, community members, and policymakers about the dangers, investigation, and prosecution of driving under the influence of drugs.

As part of these OTS grants, OCDA maintains eight vertical DUID prosecutors assigned throughout Orange County. These deputy district attorneys review, file and prosecute nearly all drug-impaired driving cases filed in Orange County. Additionally, for the 2020 grant year, OTS has provided funds for a full-time drug recognition expert who will be available to the Orange County DUID vertical prosecutors for training, consultation, and courtroom testimony.

Collectively in the 2020 grant year, OCDA prosecutors filed charges on more than 800 DUID and combination cases submitted by police agencies and secured more than 250 convictions in DUID and combination cases.

This year, the eight prosecutors assigned to the program are Deputy District Attorneys Christopher Cook and Ashley Mettler of Central Justice Center, Brad Walker and Austin Young of West Justice Center, Michael Brianteand Gaganjot Batth of Harbor Justice Center, and John Sinclair and Sharlene Mandella of North Justice Center.

The Alcohol and Drug Impaired Driver Vertical Prosecution Program grant is overseen by Assistant District Attorneys Suzie Price and Brock Zimmon.  The TSRP Training Network grant is under the supervision of Senior Assistant District Attorney Keith Bogardus and Assistant District Attorney Brock Zimmon. The TSRP team consists of Deputy District Attorneys Hoon Chang and Jessica Le and OCDA Investigator Eric Franke.

Funding for this program was provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

By Editor

The New Santa Ana blog has been covering news, events and politics in Santa Ana since 2009.

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