The Marin County division of the California Highway Patrol plans to step up its enforcement efforts for prom season, citing its statistics showing that CHP officers arrested 13 drivers under age 21 for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs during the first quarter of 2012.
Sgt. Marcus Bartholomew cited an April 7 incident at the In and Out Burger parking lot on Redwood Highway in Mill Valley as an example. Officers responded to a report of a fight involving juveniles just after midnight and made contact with a large SUV and a sedan full of teens. Of the eight passengers and two drivers, all of them were under 18 years old and out in public in violation of the Marin County curfew ordinance. The two drivers were provisional licensees out in violation of their license restrictions, Bartholomew.
Between Jan. 1 and March 31, Marin CHP officers made four arrests of impaired drivers 20 years old, five arrests of those age 19 and four arrests of those age 18 or younger.
No arrests were made for drivers under 18 with a blood-alcohol level of .01 to .05 percent, which is a separate violation of the state vehicle code. No one was arrested for being intoxicated in public at 18 years old or younger, and there were no arrests for open alcohol containers in possession of a minor.
The CHP said the majority of the arrests were made on freeways and unincorporated county roadways. The stats do not include arrests made by other law enforcement agencies, and they only represent the single most severe charge in each incident.
Illegal marijuana and alcohol possession continue to go hand in hand with under age DUI arrests, the CHP said, but with marijuana possession charges recently having been reduced to an infraction, those charges are filed through a cite and release process where the statistics are not readily available to be included in quarterly or yearly statistical press releases.
All persons under the age of 21 who are charged with a driving violation involving alcohol have their drivers license confiscated by law enforcement at the time of arrest and face a mandatory one year driver’s license suspension through DMV, regardless if they are convicted of the driving under the influence charges. Any person under 21, including someone not driving a vehicle, may also face a court ordered one year license suspension for alcohol possession, being intoxicated in public, or for possessing a false ID.
With senior proms just around the corner, Marin CHP is reminding teens and their parents to talk about the dangers of drinking and driving.
In January 2011, Marin CHP began to provide information to the media on citations and arrests involving alcohol violations with persons under the age of 21, teen provisional driver’s license violations, and drug and alcohol possession charges involving persons 18 years old and younger.
The purpose of the CHP's media campaign was to be an educational effort to:
— Bring attention to the frequency that Marin CHP officers come into contact with these violations within their jurisdiction so that parents are aware of where, when, and how the violations were occurring involving local teens.
— Potentially act as a deterrent to teens by highlighting the criminal charges, fines, penalties and dangers associated with the violations.
— Highlight the Marin CHP’s historically aggressive Zero Tolerance enforcement effort for under age driving under the influence and possession of drugs or alcohol by drivers and passengers.
— Reduce the overall number of drug and alcohol involved teen driver collisions and achieve zero fatality collisions among young drivers.