The Republican nominee for district attorney for the 22nd Judicial District is not surprised at the high number of DUI arrests and convictions in Montezuma County.
Will Furse, who currently has no opposition in Novembers general election, said there are many facets to DUIs and the laws governing them.
Furse said any solution to the communitys DUI arrest rate has to be multi-faceted and community wide. For example, Furse pointed to an increase in public transportation and a volunteer-based nightly shuttle system to help prevent drinkers from driving in the first place.
I also believe that the current DUI sentencing scheme is too formulaic and fails to address the individual offender, he said. Any DUI sentence should consider the uniqueness of each case and thereafter incorporate a deliberate method of punishment or rehabilitation.
He added that individualized supervision techniques such as DUI/Drug Court programs, vehicle interlock devices, electronic alcohol monitoring and other environmental strategies to reduce alcohol availability are proven to reduce DUIs.
We see some of those methods being used now, but they need expansion, he said.
The DA Republican nominee said there has to be a difference between punishment and rehabilitation as well as looking at the past history of the driver in question.
Currently, the court usually sentences drivers convicted of a DUI on the number of priors, but Furse would like drivers operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol-content of .16 or higher to receive a harsher sentence since this is when most of the fatalities occur.
Furse added that the court system has to look at what has worked in the past and then expand on those practices.
He also said expanding DUI drug courts is something that needs to be examined.
All too often there is no way to track people after they have been convicted of a DUI, so it sometimes is difficult to gauge what is and what is not working, Furse said.
However, there is a lack of affordable in-patient treatment facilities in Montezuma County with the closest affordable ones being in New Mexico and Grand Junction.
While drivers who repeatedly are arrested for driving under the influence cannot be charged with felonies, they can still face long jail sentences.
That does not mean a DAs hands are tied, he said, adding a repeat DUI offender faces up to one year in the county jail as well as probation.
Numerous drivers with DUI convictions will have ignition interlock devices installed on their vehicles to allow them the opportunity to continue to drive.
In this rural community if you cant drive you cannot work, he said.
Due to the high number of DUI arrests, Furse said it would be impossible to take all of them to trial, so plea bargains are a necessary evil for this offense.
He said it is not uncommon for a driver arrested for a DUI to plead to driving while ability impaired which results in a reduced penalty.
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