November DUI cases are being turned around for prosecution in December.
The Monterey County District Attorney’s Office says that’s almost unheard of thanks to the DUI Vertical Prosecution Unit.
The word “vertical” refers to prosecutors who get the case from the crime scene and stay with it through sentencing. In other words, they get it from top to bottom.
Now, one of the biggest cases for the DUI Unit is Francisco Miranda Jr. Miranda is accused of running over two women outside Natividad Medical Center. It was his third DUI this year. The latest incident happened in November and prosecutors are hoping to get the investigation wrapped up by December 31, Miranda’s next court date.
Deputy District Attorney Ed Hazel supervises the team of two prosecutors and an investigator.
“This unit has a smaller case load so they’re able to focus more directly on a smaller number of specific kinds of cases,” Hazel said.
These specific kinds of cases include proving DUI homicides. Based on circumstantial evidence, investigators often must recreate the scene in order to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, the suspect had a careless disregard for others.
“A general felony prosecutor, for example, will not have the luxury of time to get into all those technical issues,” Hazel said.
For example, consider Stuart Elder who was charged with vehicular manslaughter of two women in April. It took until November for the DUI Unit to get to the arraignment.
The team deals with 200 DUI cases a month. That’s 2,400 cases a year. On average, the team takes 60-90 days to finish investigations, Hazel said.
Hazel says, unfortunately, there will always be DUI cases. And, because of that, the DUI Vertical Prosecution Unit is able to alleviate some of the burden on the D.A.’s office.
The team gets money from a state grant it receives from the federal government. In 2012, it received $300,000.
This past October, the unit reapplied and got $421,000.