By Hannah Skepner
SACRAMENTO – Thursday afternoon, Sacramento County Superior Court saw a calendar full of cases regarding DUIs. A heckuva lot of them.
Commissioner Philip Stanger, a temporary judge, faced a mix of both in-person defendants, and those appearing on Zoom. Out of the nine cases witnessed this afternoon, eight defendants were facing DUI charges.
By looking at this calendar, and noting that only DUI cases were on the docket, it sparks the question of whether or not the Covid-19 pandemic is causing the rates of DUI cases to skyrocket.
In one case, defendant Randy Ortiz pleaded no contest to the charges of driving under the influence of alcohol, and driving with a BAC (blood alcohol content) of 0.16 percent, twice the legal limit. Ortiz was sentenced to three years of informal probation, a six-month alcohol education program, and six days total of county jail time, or work project or home detention.
Similarly, defendant Alina Babiy pleaded no contest to those same charges. In the deal provided to her by an intern under Deputy District Attorney Jennifer Kennedy, Babiy was given the option to serve four days in county jail, work project or home detention, or to pay fines of $1,950.
After strong suggestion against it by Commissioner Stanger, Babiy chose to accept the fine in addition to being sentenced to a nine-month alcohol education program, three years of informal probation, and 38 days in county jail, work project or home detention recommended.
Despite how the Sacramento Superior Court’s afternoon calendar may seem, DUI rates in California since the rise of the pandemic have actually decreased, by around 40 percent.
This drastic decrease can be attributed to the sheer decline in the number of vehicles on the road at a given time. With less establishments open statewide, people have less need to be on the road. Similarly, with the closures of bars, fewer people are found drinking and driving.
However, with the decline of cars on the highway, the more likely it has become for those driving to speed. Tickets for drivers going over 100 mph have increased by more than 46 percent since the start of the pandemic.
As counties in California begin to lift stay-at-home orders, and more places begin to open their doors, the future remains to be seen for speeding and traffic violations, as well as DUI charges.
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