Law Enforcement Cracking Down on D.U.I.s

With the creation of a new D.U.I. task force last week, drivers can expect law enforcement to be more alert than ever for impaired driving. News 25 spoke with law enforcement about the D.U.I. process in Mississippi, which is sparking nationwide controversy.

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, someone is killed in a drunk driving accident every 51 minutes. There were 614 D.U.I. related deaths in Mississippi last year, a statistic the Harrison and Jackson County District Attorney offices hopes to combat through a newly developed D.U.I. task force. Tony Lawrence, Jackson County District Attorney, says, "The goal of the task force is to prevent all the tragic consequences we see when people choose to drive impaired."

The task force combines police agencies, crime labs, and district attorney offices to more efficiently prosecute D.U.I.s. Over Labor Day weekend, some law agencies, including Harrison County, held “no refusal” D.U.I. checkpoints.

If a driver refused a breathalyzer test when requested, police immediately took that case to a judge and upon approval, drew a blood sample. Sgt. Brian Dykes, Traffic Unit Supervisor for the Biloxi Police Department, says, "We present to the judge the facts and circumstances surrounding the entire stop, what our observations were, what smells we smelled, how their demeanor was. All those things go into whether or not they failed the field sobriety test. All those things go into the probable cause statement that we present to the judge."

In the State of Mississippi, when drivers get their license, they automatically give implied consent to breath or blood tests if stopped by an officer for a D.U.I. checkpoint. Kevin Camp, a D.U.I. defense lawyer, says, "They’re circumventing the state statutes. The statute even goes as far as saying when a person refuses a test, then none shall be given."

D.U.I. defense attorneys say this sped up process is not fair to the driver. The new Coast-wide D.U.I. task force will focus their efforts on preventing D.U.I.s in the first place.

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