The knock came a little more than 48 hours after a judge told William Beall that he would not have to go to jail immediately — or maybe at all — for his 19th conviction for DUI.
When the 65-year-old Oakmont real estate agent opened his door, he was greeted by several Santa Rosa police and Sonoma County probation officers, who earlier that evening had fanned out as members of a DUI task force. They demanded to know whether Beall had any alcohol in the house.
Beall knew such a visit was possible, given the terms of probation outlined by visiting Alameda County Judge Julie Conger last Thursday during Beall's sentencing for his latest DUI offense. In exchange for his agreement to the conditions, Conger made the controversial decision to allow Beall to remain free until Jan. 21, when Beall was to learn whether he would serve that six-month sentence in jail or in a treatment facility.
But that was before the DUI task force made Beall a priority and knocked on his door Saturday night, leading ultimately to the Oakmont man being arrested again and taken back to jail, where he will remain at least until Monday on a no-bail hold while awaiting his fate on an alleged violation of probation for having booze in his home.
The task force's actions underscore the group's aggressive stance toward DUI enforcement — a stance that is drawing both praise and concern.
Besides probation searches and warrant checks, the task force, which officially is known as the Avoid the 13 campaign, conducts sobriety checkpoints, saturation patrols and undercover court stings to make sure people aren't driving on suspended or revoked licenses.
The group, which includes members of all 13 of the county's law enforcement agencies, is in the final year of a three-year, $659,000 grant funded by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and administered by the state Office of Traffic Safety.
<MC>On Tuesday, the task force conducted an undercover sting at the county courthouse in Santa Rosa to make sure people whose licenses were suspended or revoked did not drive away from their court appearances.
At least 10 people did, including one man whose license had been suspended after he got a DUI. He insisted that he gets rides from friends but that on Tuesday he couldn't find anyone to help.
"So I was, OK, I'll be careful," said the 32-year-old man, who agreed to talk on the condition that his name not be used because he is unemployed and looking for work.
Instead, the man is facing a longer suspension of his driver's license and more fines. Also, his truck was towed away on Tuesday.
Police credit such efforts for reducing injuries and crashes related to drinking and driving.
For example, state officials assert that the $14million that goes toward funding traffic safety checkpoints in California has resulted in a dramatic, 20 percent decline in "alcohol-impaired" deaths, from 1,298 in 2005 to 1,029 in 2008.
Petaluma Sgt. Ken Savano, who oversees the Avoid the 13 campaign in Sonoma County, said there hasn't been a single DUI fatality in the county in the past two years during periods of beefed-up enforcement, which mostly occur around holidays.
"It's working," Savano said. "Even if it saves one life, it's worth it."