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District Attorney wins federal grant for DUI prosecutions

Sonoma County District Attorney Jill Ravitch, who says she has been aggressively prosecuting impaired drivers, has received for the second straight year a tool to continue her department's DUI crackdown.

The DA's office announced last week it received a $400,000 federal grant to prosecute DUI cases.

The grant allows the DA's office to fund two prosecutors dedicated to DUI cases. They receive specialized training, including training on drug-impaired driving, Ravitch said.

"We have made DUI prosecution a priority, and we are seeing tremendous results," she said. "We are thrilled to receive this grant for a second year."

During the first year of the grant, The DA's office filed 1,567 DUI cases. Of those, 1,208 cases resulted in a guilty plea, two resulted in a not guilty outcome or a hung jury and the rest are pending, Ravitch said.

"Of significance is the ability for two dedicated prosecutors to track these cases from filing through disposition," she said. "Because they know the facts well, and are consistent in their approach, the outcome has been very positive."

Sonoma County, which has been among the worst in the Bay Area for the incidence of driving under the influence, has been trying to combat the problem with a combination of aggressive prosecution, public awareness and law enforcement, officials say.

In 2012, county law enforcement agencies received $1.4 million in grant money for anti-DUI enforcement. That same year, the CHP in Sonoma County made 1,311 DUI arrests, up from 1,261 in 2011, and compared to 1,403 in 2010 and 1,537 in 2009.

In the past two weeks, 13 Sonoma County law enforcement agencies have made 121 DUI arrests, said Sgt. Ken Savano of the Petaluma Police Department, the lead agency of a county DUI taskforce.

Ravitch said the DA's office grant is helping to make Sonoma County roads safer.


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