The Stanislaus County district attorney's office will receive another year of state funding to devote resources to prosecuting those accused of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
The $310,000 grant is aimed at holding impaired drivers accountable and preventing deaths and injuries. This is the second year the state Office of Traffic Safety has awarded the grant to the district attorney's office.
"There's no such thing as 'just a DUI,' " District Attorney Birgit Fladager said in a news release. "While the majority of DUI incidents may not result in actual injury to another person, there's no predicting which one will."
The grant will fund two deputy district attorneys prosecuting felony and misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter cases involving drugs and alcohol, along with cases of felony DUI and causing great bodily injury. The prosecutors also will handle felony and misdemeanor DUI cases.
"This special team will help ensure that no one falls through the cracks and that the worst-of-the-worst offenders face a highly skilled, dedicated prosecutor," Director of the Office of Traffic Safety Christopher Murphy said in the news release.
As part of the grant funding, the two prosecutors also will attend training, provide training to others and work with law enforcement agencies and their drug recognition experts.
The state money also will fund 50 percent of a criminal investigator's salary. The investigator will assist the prosecutors with follow-up investigations on their cases, focusing on vehicular homicides.
In 2011, the district attorney's office prosecuted nearly 100 cases with alcohol-related crashes in which people were injured. The prosecutors also handled four cases with alcohol-related crashes in which people were killed.
Stanislaus County ranked 12th highest in the state for alcohol-related crashes based on daily vehicle miles traveled. Prosecutors said specific attention will be given to cases in which the driver is under the influence of drugs illegal or prescription.
"There has been a significant rise in the number of people abusing prescription medication," Fladager said. "Driving under the influence of drugs, prescribed or otherwise, can be just as deadly as driving under the influence of alcohol. This message needs to be heard loud and clear."
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2394.