O’Connell Warns of DUI Crackdown

With Ventura County gearing up for New Year’s Eve, state Sen. Jack O’Connell warned Monday that new laws would crack down on anyone caught drinking and driving in the new year.

O’Connell, a Santa Barbara Democrat, outlined measures that would add felony drunk driving when a death occurs to the list of serious felonies punished under California’s “three strikes” law.

“Our message is that if you drink and drive, you will pay, and you will pay a lot,” O’Connell said.

Another law targets drivers 21 years old and under who knowingly carry alcoholic beverages in their vehicles. It makes it a misdemeanor punishable by a fine as high as $1,000 and/or up to six months in County Jail, O’Connell said.


Along with a rundown of the new laws, Monday’s news conference included 1996 statistics released by the California Highway Patrol indicating that drunk-driving arrests and traffic fatalities dropped in Ventura County.

The CHP has made about 1,300 drunk-driving arrests in 1996, a 7% decrease compared with last year. The county also saw a drop in traffic deaths, CHP Lt. Les Fritz said. This year, 41 people have died in traffic accidents, eight fewer than 1995, Fritz said.

The CHP also announced that tonight, the agency will have four out of every five Ventura County officers on the roads looking for drunk drivers in what is considered a maximum-enforcement period.