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Drunken Driving Suspects Targeted
Sweep Arrests 12 Accused of Repeat DUI Offenses in Sacramento Area.

By Christina Jewett - Bee Staff Writer
Last Updated 9:57 am PDT Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Story appeared in METRO section, Page B1

In a first-of-its-kind effort Tuesday, officers from six Sacramento law enforcement agencies tracked down convicted drunken driving offenders who are once again at large and wanted on suspicion of driving under the influence.

"Hi. Paul Arthur?" district attorney's investigator Lt. Mark Rall said to a cheerful-looking man who answered the door at his downtown apartment.

"That's me," replied Paul Arthur Cooper, 45.

"You are under arrest," Rall replied, briskly putting cuffs on Cooper, who Rall said has been previously convicted of driving under the influence with a .20 blood alcohol level - more than twice the legal limit.

So the sweep began, eventually netting 12 people wanted on suspicion of repeat DUI offenses.

The efforts of eight teams of officers conducting the warrant blitz Tuesday will be carried on by two district attorney's investigators, Sacramento County District Attorney Jan Scully said at a press conference.

The investigators will be the first officers in the state to concentrate on picking up suspected drunken drivers who skip court appearances, according to the District Attorney's Office and the state Office of Traffic Safety.

"We want to make arrests and hold people who think they are escaping justice accountable," Scully said.

Scully said the sweep is also meant to deter people from drinking and driving in the first place.

If the DUI duo proves effective, similar teams may be started throughout the state, said Office of Traffic Safety director Chris Murphy. "DUI offenders who don't show up in court are a problem in every city around the state," he said.

The warrant-serving blitz began as Sacramento police announced that alcohol was a contributing factor in the Monday crash that killed three adults and one toddler on South Land Park Drive. However, in that case, suspect Roberto Vellanoweth, 63, had no criminal record.

The state Office of Traffic Safety awarded the Sacramento County prosecutor's office a $372,000 grant to launch the arrest program.

In applying for the grant, the office said that in 2006, there were 319 outstanding DUI-related warrants for people who had been convicted of drunken driving. That number was up 56 percent since 2003, when there were 204 outstanding repeat-DUI warrants, according to numbers provided by Chris Cochran, OTS spokesman.

Previously, parole, probation and law enforcement officers sought the absconders, who are among a pool of suspects wanted on a wide range of charges.

In the third quarter of 2006, there were 6,915 outstanding felony warrants and nearly 75,000 misdemeanor warrants to be served, according to data reported by the Sacramento County Sheriff's Department to the state Corrections Standards Authority.

The district attorney's new team will narrow its focus to accused repeat DUI offenders. According to district attorney's spokeswoman Lana Wyant, the hard-core drunken drivers - who have a blood alcohol concentration nearly twice the legal limit and have more than one DUI arrest - are responsible for 58 percent of alcohol-related traffic fatalities.

Drunken-driving fatalities have been on the rise in California. In 1998, 1,072 people died in alcohol-related crashes, according to the state Department of Motor Vehicles. In 2005, 1,574 people lost their lives in drunken driving collisions.

Article courtesy of

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