Date: November 24, 2015
ORANGE COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY RECEIVES $818,824 GRANT FROM THE OFFICE OF TRAFFIC SAFETY FOR ALCOHOL AND DRUG IMPAIRED DRIVER VERTICAL PROSECUTION PROGRAM
SANTA ANA, Calif. – The Office of the Orange County District Attorney (OCDA) has been awarded an $818,824 grant from the Office of Traffic Safety (OTS) for the Alcohol and Drug Impaired Driver Vertical Prosecution Program. The year-long grant will be used to expand the specialized team of prosecutors focused on driving under the influence of drugs (DUID) cases in all regions of Orange County. Grant funds will also be used to develop and implement a video training curriculum to be used for training prosecutors and law enforcement officers on issues associated with traffic safety and case presentation.
Between 2005 and 2015, the OCDA received over $2 million in OTS grants which allowed deputy district attorneys and clerical support staff to focus exclusively on driving under the influence of alcohol and DUID cases.
“The Orange County District Attorney’s Office has done an outstanding job targeting an emerging menace on our roadways – the drug-impaired driver,” said Rhonda Craft, Director of the Office of Traffic Safety. “Their efforts are helping Orange County meet its future mobility, safety, and sustainability objectives by creating safer roadways for all users.”
In 2008, the OCDA created the first Vehicular Homicide Team (Team) of the Homicide Unit in the State of California with specialized prosecutors and investigators to vertically prosecute vehicle death cases. The People v. Moulayi is a notable case that the Team vigorously prosecuted. In that case, a 17-year-old was charged as an adult for second-degree murder for driving while intoxicated.
“I want to thank the Office of Traffic Safety for recognizing the outstanding work by OCDA prosecutors, District Attorney Investigators and our law enforcement partners, and granting us the tools necessary to aggressively prosecute impaired drivers with specialized prosecutors,” stated District Attorney Tony Rackauckas. “This crime is 100 percent preventable. Impaired driving ends young lives tragically, both for the victim and the perpetrator. This program is especially important due to the prevalence of prescription drugs and the rise in recreational drug use in our community.”
During the 2014-2015 grant cycles, the OCDA prosecuted 1,332 DUID defendants and completed 1,224 cases with 1,146 cases resulting in convictions. Of the 1,332 DUID defendants, 35 percent were under the age of 25.
This year, the eight prosecutors assigned to the program are Deputy District Attorneys Joe Koller and Avery Harrison (West Justice Center), Brian Orue and Sherin Larijani (Central Justice Center) Paulie Fabian and Alexander Harrison (North Justice Center), Shane McDonough and Shaun Abuzalaf. These prosecutors will work with Susan Price, Assistant Head of Court for the Appellate and Training Unit, Sonia Balleste Assistant Head of Court at Harbor Justice Center, and Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutor Program of the California District Attorneys Association to increase the capabilities of the Team obtaining and delivering specialized training to handle DUI cases.
Funding for this program was provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Safety Administration.