Summit County has among the highest rate of DUIs in the state of Colorado

DILLON — Summit County is one of Colorado’s worst offenders when it comes to drivers choosing to get behind the wheel while drunk or high.

Over the past few years, only a few Colorado counties have surpassed the rate of DUI arrests in Summit, and many of those communities also happen to be in the mountain region. State officials are trying to shine a light on impaired driving offenses in the area, in part through improved data collection.

Following the legalization of recreational marijuana in 2014, the Colorado Task Force on Drunk and Impaired Driving identified a lack of data on DUIs as a major knowledge gap for policy makers. In 2017, the state Legislature pushed forward with efforts to address the problem, mandating that the Division of Criminal Justice begin collecting and analyzing specific data in regard to impaired driving. The first reports were published in 2018 and 2019 — analyzing data from 2016 and 2017, respectively, to allow time for cases to be adjudicated — providing policy makers broad information on the scope of DUI cases in the state for the first time.

This is the first in a four-part series on DUI offenses in Summit County that will provide a dive into the potential causes of why DUIs are more prevalent in the mountain region than in other areas of the state, how law enforcement agencies in the county are working to address the problem, what the adjudication of DUI cases looks like from arrest to sentencing, and what’s next in the fight against impaired diving.  

What is a DUI? 

In Colorado, a driving under the influence offense, is defined by statute as driving a vehicle when a person has “consumed alcohol or one or more drugs … that affects the person to a degree that the person is substantially incapable, either mentally or physically … to exercise clear judgment, sufficient physical control, or due care in the safe operation of a vehicle.”

The state also includes DWAI, or driving while ability impaired offenses, into DUI data. Colorado largely defines DWAIs similarly to DUIs but with broader language in that drugs or alcohol “affects the person to the slightest degree so that the person is less able than the person ordinarily would have been … in the safe operation of a vehicle.”

The statutes also set explicit limits for allowable alcohol and THC levels. In regard to alcohol, drivers could receive a DWAI or DUI charge if their blood alcohol concentration rises above 0.05 or 0.08, respectively. In regards to THC, or tetrahydrocannabinol — the principal psychoactive compound in marijuana — law enforcement officers base arrests on observed impairment and no “per se” limit, though drivers who are found with more than five nanograms of active THC in their blood can be prosecuted with a DUI.

Statewide data

According to a statewide report issued by the Colorado Division of Criminal Justice, there were a total of 26,454 DUI cases in the state in 2017, a small decline from the 27,244 cases in 2016.

Unsurprisingly, the state’s largest counties by population also were the worst offenders when it came to the total number of DUI offenses. In fact, with the exception of Denver County, five of the top six most populated counties in the state also composed the top five list of most DUI charges, including El Paso (3,074 in 2017), Adams (2,830), Jefferson (2,597), Arapahoe (2,413) and Larimer (2,052). Drinking CultureThe problem of impaired driving in Summit County

Summit County’s Fifth Judicial District has the second highest rate of DUI charges per capita in Colorado. In this series, we explore the public safety issue and take a look at how the problem could be addressed.

In taking a closer look at the demographics of DUI offenders, there appear to be some noteworthy trends that stick out. The first, and perhaps most discernible, is gender. Men make up a huge majority of DUI offenses (74.4% statewide) compared with women, a trend that held up across age groups.

While most DUI case filings involved individuals who were of legal drinking age (92.1%), individuals who were between 18 and 20 years old actually had the highest rate of DUI cases, with 1,135 cases per 100,000 residents compared with 885 cases per 100,000 residents for individuals 21 and older. But taking a look at the age distribution of all DUI cases in 2017, the number of male and female defendants peaked at age 24 followed by a steady decline as age increased.

There are also a large number of repeat DUI offenders in Colorado. Of the more than 37,000 individuals who received a probation assessment as part of their DUI charge in 2016 and 2017, more than one-third had a previous DUI offense. Just more than 30% had either one or two prior offenses, and over 6% had three or more prior offenses. As the number of prior offenses increased, so did the number of male offenders. In 2017, of the 1,212 people who were arrested with three or more prior offenses, 86% were men.

While the statistics surrounding age and gender point to identifiable trends in the most common DUI offenders, other data points like education don’t provide the same insights, especially given the small sample size. With just minor variations between 2016 and 2017, individuals with no diploma or GED certificate represented the smallest portion of DUI offenders (18.5%), followed by individuals with at least some college education (38.6%) and individuals with a high school diploma or GED certificate (43.3%).

Nearly two-thirds of total DUI case filings in 2017 were linked to a toxicology breath or blood test. In looking at the types of substances Colorado motorists drove on in 2017, alcohol was far and away the most prevalent. Of the individuals who were only on one substance at the time of their DUI — a statistic that should be looked at with some criticism given that law enforcement officers often will forego a more complete toxicology report if alcohol abuse is obvious — 90% were inebriated on alcohol. Marijuana was the next most common drug, comprising 7.2% of DUIs tied to a toxicology report. Among polydrug users, alcohol and marijuana was by far the most common combination for DUI offenses (40.6%).

A Summit County problem

While the total number of DUIs in areas around the Front Range might seem like a concern, bigger populations largely help to drive those totals. But when you negate population sizes, the mountain region stands out as the biggest trouble area in the state.

“I think it says that we have a lot of work to do on issues surrounding substance abuse,” said District Attorney Bruce Brown, who noted that the DUI rate is somewhat inflated by the number of visitors who get DUIs in the area. “I think we need better treatment, of course. And we need to keep focusing on how we build events and create geography that discourages drinking and driving. … They’re two separate issues.”

In 2017, only three judicial districts reached 1,100 or more DUI case filings per 100,000 residents. All three were in northwest Colorado, in the 14th (Grand, Moffat, Routt), Ninth (Garfield, Pitkin and Rio Blanco) and Fifth Judicial Districts (Clear Creek, Eagle, Lake and Summit).

Of note, Summit County ranked fourth among counties in 2016 and fifth in 2017 in the state in terms of DUI rate per 100,000 residents, according to the statewide report. More recent data provided by the Fifth Judicial District Attorney’s Office shows that the trend likely isn’t a fluke.

Despite some minor deviations from the state’s data — potentially caused by the state’s inclusion of DUI cases alleging a blood alcohol concentration below the threshold for adults ages 16-21, according to District Attorney Bruce Brown — the district has remained one of the state’s worst for DUI offenses.

From 2015 through 2019, Summit County had 2,156 cases where an individual was charged with a DUI or a related charge. In total, the Fifth Judicial District is ninth out of 22 districts in terms of the total number of DUIs charged. But the district also charges the second highest number of DUIs per 100,000 residents in the state. In 2019, Summit County was the worst offender in the district with 464 DUI cases compared with Eagle County’s 436.

“We have to continue to try and reduce those numbers,” Summit County Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons said. “Those numbers are unacceptable in our community, and they should be unacceptable to everybody. So we need to keep working on ways to reduce the number of people driving while intoxicated, through education, awareness, stigma and enforcement. We’ve all got to do better.”

DUIs from prescription drugs rising as DUIs from alcohol decline

SALT LAKE CITY (KUTV) — The Utah Highway Patrol said they are seeing a growing number of DUI arrests, not for alcohol, but people under the influence of prescription drugs.DUIs from prescription drugs rising as DUIs from alcohol decline

 Kelly Vaughen reports — DUIs from prescription drugs rising as DUIs from alcohol decline. (KUTV)

Utah Highway Patrol sees around 10,000 arrests each year statewide. That number is staying steady, even as the number of drunk driving arrests goes down.

The reason illegal, and prescription drug use.

Sergeant Nick Street, with Utah Highway Patrol, says:

We’re finding more and more often in fatalities as we do blood draws after the fact, we’re seeing more impairing substances coming from prescriptions, coming from illicit drugs. And those are definitely contributing to fatal crashes.

Sergeant Nick Street, with Utah Highway Patrol chats with 2News reporter Kelly Vaughen on December 30, 2019. (KUTV)

Sgt. Street said he sees a lot of arrests from people with Xanax, Ambien, and prescription opioids in their system. Street says:

A lot of times they’re called in as reckless drivers. You know we’ll meet up with them, we’ll see their poor driving pattern and we’ll pull them over and sure enough, it’s the result of prescription drugs maybe not quite right, and they are shocked that they are exhibiting that behavior and unfortunately they do get arrested.

David Rosenbloom is a DUI attorney in Salt Lake City. He said 20 years ago his practice was made up of 80% alcohol DUIs, 10% illegal drug DUIs, and 10% prescription drug DUIs.

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“Fast forward to today, I would say, at least my practice, is less than 50% alcohol, just under, 40% prescription drug, and 10% illegal. Illegal might be higher now and then,” said Rosenbloom

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He said many of his clients were only on drugs prescribed to them, and most thought they were fine to drive. Rosenbloom says:

I have that happening now with a client who has a mental disability and got a DUI for just taking his medication, his prescription medication for schizophrenia. And then he drove afterwards, after his suspended license, and now he has six cases.

One reason drunk driving is on the decline, while drug-impaired driving is on the rise may be from social changes.

Sgt. Street said now drinking and driving is looked down upon in most social settings, but that shift hasn’t happened with prescription or illegal drugs.

In Utah it’s possible to get a DUI without driving, or even being in your car at all. I spoke with a lawyer about some of the cases like that he’s dealt with.

Law enforcement says to check all prescription labels, and don’t drive until you know how you are affected. Also, be aware of mixing your prescriptions and alcohol. 

UHP said they see a great number of DUIs as a result of that.

Man arrested for driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol

A Hamlin man was arrested last week following an incident in Jane Lew during which police allege they found him driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol.

On Tuesday, Dec. 10, troopers with the W.Va. State Police were dispatched to the Go Mart in Jane Lew for a domestic situation in progress.

The troopers were advised the vehicle had left the convenience store and was traveling on Interstate 79 south.

According to the criminal complaint, the troopers discovered the vehicle, a red Chevy Cobalt, that was parked alongside the road near mile marker 103. The vehicle was not parked normally as the front of the vehicle was pointed toward the woods along the side of the freeway.

Officers then observed the driver of the vehicle, Edward G. Adkins, age 70, in the front seat moving about and slurring his speech. According to the complaint, the trooper also noticed the female passenger was “all over the vehicle and appeared to be tweaking as they could not control themselves.” Troopers wrote in the complaint that they could smell an alcoholic beverage on Adkins’ breath and that he admitted to drinking two beers earlier in the day.

According to the complaint, the Adkins’ pupils were very constricted. After taking the female passenger to the cruiser, she advised the officers that a third female passenger in the vehicle had overdosed and that she had administered two doses of Narcan.

The female told law enforcement personnel that Adkins and the other female passenger had taken heroin at a location somewhere north of Lewis County.

Adkins then admitted to police that he had “ate some meth” about 30 minutes prior to this incident.

Officers noted that Adkins could not focus on the task at hand and held his license in his hand as he continued to look for it in his wallet and car. Adkins also advised the troopers that he had some serious medical conditions and is on other medications as well.

The complaint continues by saying that Adkins stated to police that he felt a little intoxicated and probably should not have been driving. He continued by saying he had fallen asleep and had to be woken up on numerous occasions.

Adkins refused all FST tests by law enforcement and was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol and controlled substances.

Adkins also failed to submit an obtainable sample on the Intoximeter. According to the criminal complaint, Adkins was then taken to Stonewall Jackson Memorial Hospital, where a blood sample was obtained.

The female passenger was arrested for possession of meth, and the second female was transported to SJMH.

Adkins was arrested and charged with driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol, improper registration and having no insurance. He was arraigned, with bail set at $10,000. Adkins is currently being held in Central Regional Jail in lieu of bail.

13,000 caught driving under influence of alcohol

BEIJING, Dec. 26 (Xinhua) — Chinese police caught 13,000 drivers drinking and driving from Tuesday to Wednesday in a nationwide intensified check.

The number includes 1,027 drunk driving cases, in which drivers may face criminal punishment once convicted.

The checks will continue nationwide to curb such violations, especially during the approaching festival season, according to the traffic management division under the Ministry of Public Security.

Following the New Year’s Day, the Spring Festival, or Chinese Lunar New Year, falls on Jan. 25 in 2020.

Man dressed as Santa Claus arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence

CHULA VISTA, Calif. (KABC) — A man dressed as Santa Claus added an accessory to his Santa suit – a pair of handcuffs.

Chula Vista police said the man crashed into several parked cars, wrecked his own vehicle, and then ran off.

Witnesses had called police describing the driver as a man in a Santa suit.

Officers found part of the costume and an identification inside the vehicle that led them to the suspect. He was arrested at his home.

Police believe he may have been driving under the influence.

Grieving Norwalk husband accused of driving drunk with kids in truck — twice

WILTON — A Norwalk man was caught driving drunk with his children in the car twice this month, according to police, but his attorney claims there’s more to the story that puts his client’s alleged actions into context.
Attorney Allan Friedman said his client, 62-year-old John Deacy, has struggled this December, which marks one year since his wife died of cancer.
“This time of the year with the holidays and it being his wedding anniversary and the one-year anniversary of his wife’s death, combined with being alone for the holidays, has led to him making some poor decisions,” Friedman said Monday.

However, Friedman said those circumstances do not justify Deacy’s actions, but he feels it puts them into context.
“This familial tragedy and his wife’s suffering have had a serious impact on him,” Friedman said.

Following his second arrest this weekend, Deacy voluntarily checked himself into “an intensive alcohol treatment program,” Friedman said.
Deacy’s recent arrest occurred in Wilton on Saturday — just one day after he was supposed to be arraigned for his first arrest. However, the court appearance was pushed to January.
Wilton police said they pulled over Deacy’s pickup truck on Danbury Road and found his sons — ages 10 and 13 — inside the vehicle along with 11 empty “nip” bottles of vodka.
Police said a passing motorist reported seeing Deacy driving erratically on Danbury Road near Olmstead Hill Road around 7 p.m. Saturday.
Police said an officer pulled over Deacy’s Ford F150 pickup near Catalpa Road after seeing his truck fail to stay in the proper lane.
Deacy, who is accused of leaving the scene of a drunken driving accident earlier this month in Norwalk, had a strong odor of alcohol on his breath, slurred speech and glassy, bloodshot eyes when he was pulled over this weekend, Wilton police said.
When asked to get out and walk to the back of his truck, police said Deacy lost his balance several times and nearly fell over. Police said Deacy failed field sobriety tests.
In addition to the empty 50-milliliter bottles, police said they found an empty 200-milliliter bottle of vodka in Deacy’s inside jacket pocket.
Family members were contacted to take custody of the boys and the state Department of Children and Families is conducting an investigation.
Deacy, of Lorena Street, was charged with operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol/drugs and DUI with children under 18. He was also cited for traffic violations, including operating a motor vehicle without registration and without insurance.
Deacy refused chemical testing and was released on $2,500 bond.
Deacy is also facing driving under the influence with a minor in the vehicle, evading responsibility, driving without minimum insurance and failure to obey traffic controls for a Dec. 6 accident in Norwalk.
Norwalk police said Deacy caused an accident when he ran a red light at East Avenue and Winfield Street. Police said Deacy, who had his two children and a third teen inside the car, fled the scene and was later arrested at his home.
Lt. Terry Blake said police found a brown paper bag with four bottles of flavored vodka, one of which was empty, inside Deacy’s vehicle.
Deacy has been scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 2 and 3 for the two cases.

Driver who led police on chase up Route 128 due in court

A driver accused in a police chase on Route 128 that led officers from Needham to Waltham last week is due in court Monday.

State Police tried to stop Tonnie Griham, 52, of Boston, for erratic operation of a motor vehicle in Needham on Friday, police said. 

Police said the driver refused to stop for the trooper, and a pursuit ensued. A second trooper in the area joined the pursuit.

Additional State Police units began responding to the area to assist the two cruisers pursuing the motorist, who continued to drive erratically, police said.

Troopers laid a tire deflation device across the road but the suspect vehicle stopped prior to hitting the device.

Police said the driver refused to get out of the motor vehicle, and troopers had to break a window in the vehicle to extract the suspect, who resisted.

Griham was charged with operating under the influence of drugs, third offense; operating under the influence while license currently suspended for prior OUI; possession of a Class A narcotic; reckless operation of a motor vehicle; and failure to stop for police. 

Several troopers suffered minor injuries while extracting the resisting suspect from the vehicle, police said.

Man hit, killed after fleeing OVI arrest

Police Lights

FAYETTE COUNTY, Ohio (WDTN) – A man is dead after being hit by a semi while trying to flee from an OVI stop on I-71. 

According to the Wilmington Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, troopers stopped Jonathon Richards, 31, of Hamilton, just after 3:20 Saturday morning for speed and lane violations. 

Richards was placed under arrest for OVI and an outstanding warrant from the Butler County Sheriff’s Office. During the arrest, police said that Richards pulled away from troopers and ran into southbound traffic where he was struck and killed by a Freightliner Semi.

The crash remains under investigation at this time.

Baraboo man asks deputy for a ‘break’ before being arrested for felony OWI

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BRAD ALLEN/News Republic

A Baraboo man pulled over for suspicion of driving while intoxicated allegedly asked a Sauk County sheriff’s deputy for a break because he was parked outside his home when the officer approached him.

Steven L. Jahnz, 55, was also on parole for a November 2016 conviction for drunken driving in Adams County. His license has been revoked since his release from prison in 2018.

According to a criminal complaint filed by Deputy Shawn Finnegan of the Sauk County Sheriff’s Office, a person called authorities at 1 p.m. Tuesday from Whitetail Crossing Convenience Store in the town of Delton. The caller provided a description of the vehicle, the license plate number and said the vehicle was headed south on Highway BD. Deputy Brad Stoddard joined the search for the vehicle, heading northbound from West Baraboo roughly a block ahead of Finnegan.

When the vehicle was spotted coming down a hill near Terrytown Road, Finnegan made a U-turn at the intersection and followed it as Jahnz pulled into Winnebago Circle in Baraboo and parked near an apartment building.

When the deputy got out of this vehicle to speak to Jahnz, he noticed the man smelled like alcohol and was leaning on his vehicle repeatedly for balance. Jahnz said he didn’t know what the officer was talking about when questioned about coming from Whitetail, but once the officer asked if Jahnz had just returned from a “convenience store near the casino” Jahnz said he had.

However, he denied having consumed alcohol and said he had only gone to the store to buy cigarettes. When Jahnz admitted to having been convicted of a number of OWIs, the deputy said field sobriety tests would need to be taken.

According to the complaint, Jahnz then asked if he could just be “let go” and it could be forgotten because he was outside his home. He asked for the deputy not to pursue any tests because he was currently on probation for his prior conviction. The deputy said that would not be happening.

He was charged with felony operating while intoxicated and operating with a prohibited alcohol content and a misdemeanor charge of driving with a revoked license.

Jahnz was transported to Sauk County Jail after his arrest. He made an initial appearance Wednesday in Sauk County Circuit Court. A $3,000 cash bond was set by Circuit Court Judge Patricia Barrett.

Jahnz faces a maximum prison sentence of 32 years for the charges, and 12 additional years due to a burglary conviction in February 2016. Jahnz could face fines totaling up to $52,500 and have his driver’s license permanently revoked with a chance to appeal the decision 10 years after his possible conviction. According to court records, Jahnz was previously convicted of OWI charges Aug. 12, 1994; twice on Oct. 12, 1994; Feb. 10, 2016; and twice on Nov. 29, 2016.

Jahnz has a preliminary hearing set for Dec. 26 in Sauk County Circuit Court.+1

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Nathan Griffith Arrested, Charged with DWI

Jenelle Evans‘ ex Nathan Griffith was arrested on Thursday.

According to online records, the former Teen Mom 2 star was arrested by the Cary Police Department in Cary, North Carolina. He was charged with one count of driving while impaired.

A spokesperson for the Cary Police Department tells PEOPLE: “We got a call at around 5:23 p.m. about a person unconscious in a vehicle at the Harris Teeter. When the fire department arrived on the scene, they found that the vehicle was running and determined the nature of the call was not medical so they contacted PD. Our officer arrived on the scene, conducted a DWI investigation, formed the opinion that he was impaired and placed him under arrest.”

A spokesperson for the Wake County Sheriff’s Office confirms to PEOPLE that Griffith, 32, posted his $10,000 bond overnight and was released. He’s due in court next month, according to TMZ.

North Carolina Police

Griffith shares 5-year-old son Kaiser with Evans, 27.

In May, Evans temporarily lost custody of Kaiser and 2-year-old daughter Ensley — whom she shares with husband David Eason — after Eason allegedly shot their family dog. The couple also lost custody of Eason’s 11-year-old daughter Maryssa from a previous relationship over the incident. Eason allegedly shot the animal for biting Ensley in the face.

Evans and Eason regained custody of the kids in July. Evans — who was fired from Teen Mom 2 after the scandal — confirmed the news in a statement to PEOPLE at the time.

“I am ecstatic to regain custody of my kids back!” she said. “Throughout this long process and final decision, I am excited to be moving forward and continuing to show America I’m a good parent.”

Evans’ mother Barbara reportedly still maintains custody of Evans’ eldest child, 9-year-old son Jace from a previous relationship.

Police later said that Eason would not face animal cruelty charges because Evans told them the story was made up for “publicity.” She has denied telling authorities that she lied.

But in an exclusive interview with PEOPLE in September, Eason admitted to killing the dog. “It was a situation where my daughter, her health, her safety was in danger,” he said. “This was something that nobody wants to ever have to do. The dog was aggressive. Yes, she might not be huge or whatever, but you know when a dog bites a child on the face more than one time, then it should never be around the child again. If you give the dog up for adoption, one day it’s going to be around children again.”