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San Marcos Sheriff Hunting for DUI Drivers

On Behalf of | May 18, 2015 | Firm News |

“I can tell within 30 seconds.”  That is what the deputy said in the article it takes for her to determine if someone is DUI.

That was all I had to read to know what is wrong here.  Talk about rushing to judgment.  Now, I am not talking about the falling over drunk.  Most anyone can see that.  How about the girl who had a few glasses of wine and ends up being .09% (which is a lot of people).  The Deputy can tell in 30 seconds?  Do we really think she is being objective as she is having people perform the FSTs?  Baloney.

Do you believe that if there is a tough call that is right on the edge this deputy will be safe or act like “the hunter”?  Hello….if someone gets arrested and they are on the edge the tax payers have to pay out to prosecute a case that is often a losing hand.

When a defense attorney gets a .18%DUI case we know it is a tough road and there is a chance that if we mitigate the job is well done.  When the attorney gets a .08% case, we froth at the mouth.  The burden is BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT.  The deputy has a burden of probable cause.  Will this stop “the Hunter”?

The hunter…..nice.   So, do you think this “hunter” is being objective if she sees a vehicle leaving a bar at night?  Will people get a quick pull over for something BS because “the hunter” is so sure they are DUI.  

Innocent until proven guilty.  Burdens of proof.  Police securing the rights of the citizens and following the law in a professional OBJECTIVE manner.  This is what we as tax payers pay for and as citizens we demand.  

Go hunt DUIs…..but dont you dare think you know after 30 seconds.  You gather all the evidence in a methodical manner and make your determination at the end.  Balls and strikes deputy.


Deputy Kristy Drilling was hunting for drunks Friday night on the streets of San Marcos.

She’s good at it. The 35-year-old sheriff’s traffic deputy made 101 DUI arrests last year, winning a Mothers Against Drunk Driving Award for the third year in a row.

She was on a DUI saturation patrol of one. Working an overtime shift paid for by a state grant designed to go after drunken drivers, she pulled over one car after another all night long.

It’s a scene repeated all over the North County every night as law enforcement attacks the problem, which is rampant.

“It’s amazing how many drunk drivers are on the road,” Drilling said. Late at night, “if you stop every single person either they’ve been drinking or they’re drunk.”

It was just getting dark Friday when Drilling started driving, her head appearing to be on a swivel as she scanned the road ahead and the parking lots to the side for signs of inebriation.

“Basically I’ll see signs of a drunk driver,” she said. “It could be swerving into other lanes. It could be weaving back and forth in the lane they’re in. Maybe they’re driving fast and slowing down, alternating speeds. They could be driving without headlights, that’s a good clue. There are a lot of things.”

Across the North County, police, highway patrol officers and deputies are looking for impaired drivers.

Late last year the “Avoid the 8 on 78” task force was formed, bringing together eight different North County law enforcement agencies committed to enhanced DUI enforcement and education in a push aimed at drivers in the cities along the state Route 78 corridor.

Combining forces, the task force has conducted a number of DUI checkpoints across the region, participated in joint saturation patrols, and given lectures to schools and other groups about the dangers.

Escondido Police Chief Craig Carter, who hosted the news conference announcing the task force back in November, said drunken driving has ramifications that go way beyond just someone being arrested, going to jail, and losing their driving privileges.

The crashes that so often result from the drunken driver’s poor choices have many impacts, Carter said.

“It’s a big deal in that usually it’s not just a single victim and single suspect. It involves victims, family members, and has an effect on the officers.”

Along state Route 78 alone, more than 1,600 people were arrested for DUI by the California Highway Patrol from 2010 to 2013. During the same time period, 207 impaired drivers caused crashes resulting in injuries.

And that’s not even counting city streets.

Friday night, Drilling, a deputy for seven years and the daughter of a retired San Diego police lieutenant and sister of a San Diego police detective, drove up and down San Marcos Boulevard in the Restaurant Row area. She was looking for bad drivers but also anything else that could give her probable cause to pull someone over and then use her nose to sniff for the scent of alcohol.

“I’ve contacted so many people it’s obvious when someone is under the influence,” she said.

“I can tell within 30 seconds.”

The clues are easy to spot for someone with experience.

“There’s the smell and the red, watery eyes,” she said. “Sometimes it’s slurred speech or they’ll fumble around trying to show me their ID. Lot’s of times I’ll ask to see their ID and they’ll hand their credit card to me. Sometimes I’ll tell them to put their car in park and they’ll start rolling down the road with me yelling at them to put on the brake.”

Between 7 p.m. and 11:45 p.m. Friday she pulled over more than a dozen drivers for having expired license plate registration tags, for having license plate lights that weren’t working, for stopping beyond the line at a traffic signal, or for making an illegal U-turn.

Because she was out with the sole purpose of busting drunks, she let them all go with warnings after evaluating them – all but one. A 20-year-old San Marcos man was written up for driving on a suspended license and driving without his headlights on when, around 11 p.m., he pulled out of a parking lot and headed down San Marcos Boulevard in his black sports car. It wasn’t until Drilling turned her lights on that his were activated.

The man hadn’t been drinking, but also hadn’t had a valid license for a couple years because of a prior DUI conviction and ensuing court problems. He was allowed to call his parents to come pick him up and drive his car home. They were none too happy with him.

When Drilling is doing her normal traffic duties she spends most of her time responding to crashes, but when things are slow, or when she’s doing a special saturation patrol, she focuses on bar parking lots and waits until someone leaves. If she can find a legal reason to pull them over, she does.

“I’m not targeting bars, it’s just that’s more likely where there will be drunks,” she said.

“Sometimes I’ll follow a car from one bar to another bar.”

She said when bars close she will often have her choice of following dozens of vehicles all leaving at the same time and likely all containing drunken drivers.

She’s had her share of fights. Once her partner accidentally Tased her instead of the drunk she was wrestling with.

“The happy drunks are fun,” she said. “The mean ones are the ones I remember. I’ve been called every name in the book, but I don’t take it personally, they’re mad at the badge, not at me.”

The majority of her DUI arrests are college men, mainly because she’s a San Marcos deputy where Palomar College and Cal State San Marcos call home.

“Mostly at night coming from parties or leaving bars. College kids don’t know their limits and they drink a lot.”

She often slowly drives in parking lots past crowded bars to let patrons know she is there.

“We’re trying to tell people we’re out here. Get a cab. I’ll follow the really dumb drunks right out the lot. They won’t have their headlights on or they’ll run a red light right in front of me.”

Many times Friday night she would start to watch drivers get in their cars in front of the bar only to pull back into a parking spot moments later after spotting her in their mirrors.

“It’s a game of cat and mouse,” Drilling said. “I’m the cat. I’m the hunter.”

The full article can be found here.

If you are charged with a San Diego DUI or other Criminal offense, you need to call our firm immediately. We are available to take action on your case today. Please email or call us at 858-751-4384 or email me at [email protected] to schedule a free consultation. The key is to be proactive.

The Standardized Field Sobriety Test (SFST) is a battery of three tests administered and evaluated in a standardized manner to obtain validated indicators of impairment and establish probable cause for arrest. These tests were developed as a result of research sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and conducted by the Southern California Research Institute. A formal program of training was developed and is available through NHTSA to help law enforcement officers become more skillful at detecting DWI suspects, describing the behavior of these suspects, and presenting effective testimony in court. Formal administration and accreditation of the program is provided through the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP). The three tests of the SFST are:

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN),
  • Walk-and-Turn (WAT),
  • and One-Leg Stand (OLS).

These tests are administered systematically and are evaluated according to measured responses of the suspect.

HGN Testing

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus is an involuntary jerking of the eye that occurs naturally as the eyes gaze to the side. Under normal circumstances, nystagmus occurs when the eyes are rotated at high peripheral angles. However, when a person is impaired by alcohol, nystagmus is exaggerated and may occur at lesser angles. An alcohol-impaired person will also often have difficulty smoothly tracking a moving object. In the HGN test, the officer observes the eyes of a suspect as the suspect follows a slowly moving object such as a pen or small flashlight, horizontally with his or her eyes. The examiner looks for three indicators of impairment in each eye: if the eye cannot follow a moving object smoothly, if jerking is distinct when the eye is at maximum deviation, and if the angle of onset of jerking is within 45 degrees of center. If, between the two eyes, four or more clues appear, the suspect likely has a BAC of 0.08 or greater. NHTSA research found that this test allows proper classification of approximately 88 percent of suspects (Stuster and Burns, 1998). HGN may also indicate consumption of seizure medications, phencyclidine, a variety of inhalants, barbiturates, and other depressants.

Walk and Turn

The Walk-and-Turn test and One-Leg Stand test are “divided attention” tests that are easily performed by most unimpaired people. They require a suspect to listen to and follow instructions while performing simple physical movements. Impaired persons have difficulty with tasks requiring their attention to be divided between simple mental and physical exercises.

In the Walk-and-Turn test, the subject is directed to take nine steps, heel-to-toe, along a straight line. After taking the steps, the suspect must turn on one foot and return in the same manner in the opposite direction. The examiner looks for eight indicators of impairment: if the suspect cannot keep balance while listening to the instructions, begins before the instructions are finished, stops while walking to regain balance, does not touch heel-to-toe, steps off the line, uses arms to balance, makes an improper turn, or takes an incorrect number of steps. NHTSA research indicates that 79 percent of individuals who exhibit two or more indicators in the performance of the test will have a BAC of 0.08 or greater (Stuster and Burns, 1998).

One Leg Stand

In the One-Leg Stand test, the suspect is instructed to stand with one foot approximately six inches off the ground and count aloud by thousands (One thousand-one, one thousand-two, etc.) until told to put the foot down. The officer times the subject for 30 seconds. The officer looks for four indicators of impairment, including swaying while balancing, using arms to balance, hopping to maintain balance, and putting the foot down. NHTSA research indicates that 83 percent of individuals who exhibit two or more such indicators in the performance of the test will have a BAC of 0.08 of greater (Stuster and Burns, 1998).

Combined Measures

When the component tests of the SFST battery are combined, officers are accurate in 91 percent of cases, overall, and in 94 percent of cases if explanations for some of the false positives are accepted (Stuster and Burns, 1998).

The original NHTSA research found different accuracies for the SFST Battery than reported in the more recent study. Tharp, Burns, and Moskowitz (1981) reported accuracies of 77 percent for the HGN, 68 percent for the Walk and Turn, and 65 percent for the One Leg Stand components; 81 percent of officers’ arrest decisions at 0.10 BAC were correct when all three measures were combined. In contrast, Stuster and Burns (1998) found greater accuracies in making arrest decisions on the basis of SFST results in their study at 0.08 percent BAC, as described previously and summarized in the following table.

Comparison of SFST Accuracies 1981 vs. 1998

Study: Combined Tharp, Burns, & Moskowitz (1981)

  • BAC: 0.10
  • HGN: 77%
  • WAT: 8%
  • OLS: 65%
  • Combined: 81%

Study: Stuster & Burns (1998)

  • BAC: 0.08
  • HGN: 88%
  • WAT: 79%
  • OLS: 83%
  • Combined: 91%

The greater component and overall accuracies found during the 1998 study are attributable to 17 years of law enforcement experience with the SFSTs since the original study and a lower criterion BAC than in the original study (i.e., 0.08 vs. 0.10 percent).

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