DUIs cost big bucks as cops step up enforcement
Published 2:56 am Saturday, December 20, 2014
The message is clear this holiday season for Mississippi motorists who hit the holiday spirits too hard: drive sober or get pulled over and pay thousands of dollars to be able to drive again.
Local and state law enforcement agents are stepping up DUI enforcement this holiday season as part of a nationwide campaign to curb impaired driving, and if that’s not enough of a reason to stay sober behind the wheel, the nearly $9,000 it takes to get back on the road probably is.
The national Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over campaign began last Friday and runs though Jan. 1, Vicksburg Deputy Chief Bobby Stewart said.
“The holiday season should be a time of joy, not a time of tragedy and loss. For this reason, Vicksburg motorists can expect to see an increase in saturation patrols and sobriety checkpoints in random locations throughout the city during this time,” Stewart said.
Alcohol is a common part of Christmas and New Year’s Eve celebrations, but the holiday season is no excuse to get behind the wheel intoxicated, Stewart said.
DUIs are expensive
First Offense — a misdemeanor conviction; $250 to $1,000 fine and/or up to 48 hours in jail; offender is required to attend a MASEP class; suspension of driver’s license for 90 days or until safety education completed.
Second Offense within five years — a misdemeanor conviction; $600 to $1,500 fine and sentenced to five days or up to one year in jail; suspension of driver’s license for two years; the court can order the violators vehicle to be equipped with an ignition interlock device.
Third or subsequent offense within five years — a felony conviction; $2,000 to $5,000 fine and one year in jail to five years in prison; some offenders in Warren County are eligible for drug court; suspension of driver’s license for three years, ordered to attend an alcohol or drug abuse treatment approved by the Department of Mental Health; court can order the violators vehicle to be equipped with an ignition interlock device or the vehicle seized and fortified
“Drunk driving is a crime that will not be tolerated and law enforcement officers will not accept excuses. If you’re caught driving impaired by alcohol or drugs, you will be arrested and taken to jail,” Stewart said.
The Warren County Sheriff’s Office will also be stepping up enforcement this holiday season, though they are not participating in the Drive Sober campaign sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
“At this as well as other holidays, we will have extra manpower out,” Sheriff Martin Pace said.
“We keep a steady vigilance of watching out for impaired drivers throughout the year.”
Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol troopers will also be stepping up enforcement. The agency is participating in Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over, and an increased Christmastime enforcement begins Tuesday, said Lt. Johnny Poulos, head of the public affairs division for MHP.
After a first-offense DUI arrest, offenders must post a $1,000 bail to be released from jail, Warren County Justice Court Judge Jeff Crevitt said. Second-time offenders must post $1,500 bail.
In Vicksburg, a first-offense DUI fine is $834. In Warren County, which handles DUI cases for the sheriff’s office and the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol, the fine for a first time is $684.50. State laws allows for first-time offenders to be fined up to $1,000.
On top of that, DUI offenders must pay approximately $200 to attend an alcohol safety class, Crevitt said.
“Everything adds up quick,” he said.
Defendants who want a lawyer to represent them in court can expected to pay several thousand dollars, said County Prosecutor Ricky Johnson. Johnson prosecutes DUIs in Warren County Justice Court.
“I would say locally at least $2,500 for an attorney. I think that’s pretty close,” Johnson said.
Getting a DUI can make it expensive or difficult to obtain insurance. So exactly how much does insurance go up?
“It is really impossible to answer since every carrier is different,” said Donna Cromeans, spokeswoman for Mississippi Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney.
Obtaining insurance after a DUI requires a high-risk — commonly referred to as SR-22 — policy. Some agents won’t take on high-risk clients.
State Farm agent Diane Derivaux Kemp’s office said they do not write insurance policies for customers convicted of DUI.
Anna Tillotson, an associate agent for Nationwide Insurance, said the exact increase after a DUI is variable based on a number of factors including a customer’s driving record and the type of vehicle they drive.
Most insurance companies estimate an increase of 40 to 60 percent on high-risk premiums.