OCDA’s Office receives $1.47 million in grants to combat driving under the influence

The Orange County District Attorney’s Office (OCDA) is proud to announce that it has been chosen by the California Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) to continue serving as the statewide traffic safety training agency in an ongoing effort to combat drugged and drunk driving across California.

OTS has awarded the OCDA two grants totaling $1.47 million in order to fund the office’s Alcohol and Drug Impaired Driver Vertical Prosecution Program, which dedicates eight prosecutors to prosecuting drugged and drunk driving cases, as well as continue the California Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutor Training Network, which trains California law enforcement and prosecutors on how to effectively prosecute driving under the influence cases.

Unfortunately, the number of drug-impaired driving cases investigated and prosecuted across California has increased in the wake of the state’s 2016 decriminalization of marijuana.

“I have committed my public safety career to stopping drunk and drugged driving.” said Orange County District Attorney Todd Spitzer. “The unnecessary loss of life is why I, as a member of the State Assembly, authored the Steve Ambriz Act to require every Californian who wants a driver’s license to sign a form that states he or she has been advised that being under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or both, impairs the ability to safely operate a motor vehicle, and if they do so anyway and someone is killed, they can be charged with murder.

The Orange County District Attorney’s Office has taken the statewide lead in providing police officers and prosecutors with cutting edge training to hold drugged and drunk drivers accountable and make California streets safer.”

OCDA was awarded $754,563 for the Alcohol and Drug Impaired Driver Vertical Prosecution Program and $722,513 for the California Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutor Training Network.

In 2011, OCDA developed a multi-agency collaborative driving under the influence of drugs prosecution, investigation and toxicology model which has served as the innovative foundation to dev elop a statewide program.

In October 2016, OCDA expanded its traffic safety training role to the Southern California region, serving as the lead agency in prosecution and law enforcement training. This includes the delivery of live trainings, roundtables, training videos, and legal updates. In 2017, OCDA began to develop a statewide training program through its administration of the Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutor (TSRP) Training Network. As part of this process, OCDA has begun to align law enforcement and prosecution agencies throughout the state to create a massive statewide training, resource and education network. This responsibility offers agencies throughout the state the opportunity to share expertise in the area of traffic safety as the OCDA works in partnership to proactively investigate and prosecute traffic related crimes, increasing public safety in all jurisdictions throughout California.

During the 2019 grant year, our TSRP team conducted more than 50 trainings to prosecutors, peace officers, toxicologists, community members, and policymakers about the dangers, investigation, and prosecution of driving under the influence of drugs

As part of these OTS grants, OCDA maintains eight vertical DUI-Drug prosecutors assigned throughout Orange County.

These deputy district attorneys review, file and prosecute nearly all drug-impaired driving cases filed in Orange County.

Collectively in the 2019 grant year, OCDA prosecutors filed charges on more than 1,000 Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (DUID) and combination cases submitted by police agencies and secured more tha n 400 convictions in DUID and combination cases.

This year, the eight prosecutors assigned to the program are Deputy District Attorneys Matthew Bradbury and Jessica Le of Central Justice Center, Alex Brown and Andrea Schug of West Justice Center, Charles Henninger and Katheryn Fernandez of Harbor Justice Center, and Ben Atienza and Christina Cornejo of North Justice Center.

The Alcohol and Drug Impaired Driver Vertical Prosecution Program grant is overseen by Assistant District Attorneys Suzie Price and Brock Zimmon. The TSRP Training Network grant is under the supervision of Senior Assistant District Attorney Keith Bogardus and Assistant District Attorney Brock Zimmon. The TSRP team consists of Deputy District Attorneys Hoon Chang and Dalia Wahab and OCDA Investigator Eric Franke.

Funding for this program was provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

This article was released by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.