Anti-DUI tools for Fresno police and prosecutors

November 9, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
It's a crime the victims could never predict. But now, Fresno police and Fresno County prosecutors have new tools to prevent and punish DUIs.

Nancy Winslow's husband Frank died when an allegedly drunk driver rammed him off Highway 168 last year.

The emotions are still pretty raw, but she's already becoming an advocate for new laws and stiffer penalties for drunk drivers.

The sleeping face of Perla Vazquez haunts the family of the man she's accused of killing while driving drunk last October.

Vazquez had three prior DUI convictions and a fourth DUI arrest before the deadly crash -- a history Frank Winslow's family wishes had led to a different attitude.

"You hope the effect of getting one DUI and the process you have to go through in the justice system would click something in your brain and your behavior," said his widow, Nancy Winslow.

Changing behavior is one of the main goals for Fresno police traffic officers.

Last year alone, they conducted 68 checkpoints, 26 saturation patrols, and continued their "Bar Watch" program monitoring potential drivers walking out of bars.

The highly publicized operations have earned the department awards, and police believe they're slowing down drunk driving, but it's still far too common.

"It should be common sense," said Capt. Andy Hall, who heads the traffic division. "It should be socially unacceptable to drink and drive and yet still, one out of every five of our fatal collisions involves a drunk driver or an impaired driver."

Fresno police just received new grants to continue DUI operations, and the Fresno County district attorney's office also received state money to fight drunk driving.

Their grant funds an investigator and two prosecutors who work strictly on DUI cases involving injuries or deaths.

"It's helpful to work with victims early on so they know they have somebody devoted to," said Tim O'Connor, who is one of those grant-funded prosecutors. "I give them my number. They can call me and speak to me when they have issues that come up."

But prosecutors can only work within the framework of the laws.

In some cases of DUI causing death, sentences can be as short as two years, as in the case of 18-year-old Austin Jantz.

Victims' families tell Action News they want those laws to be stronger.

All it'll take, they say, is a different perspective.

"Stand where I'm standing and guaranteed, [you'll have a] different outlook," said Nancy Winslow.

The woman accused of killing Frank Winslow is actually charged with murder since she was a repeat offender.

But police and prosecutors both say there needs to be a public outcry for the laws to change on sentencing.


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