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DA’s Office Gets Funding To Go After Drivers Who Kill … And Could Kill

Drivers who get nabbed for driving under the influence in Southwest Riverside County can expect to face prosecutors who have some grant money behind them.

The Riverside County District Attorney’s Office got word Tuesday it will receive more than $500,000 in grant monies to be used specifically for prosecuting DUI-related vehicular homicide cases and misdemeanor drug-impaired cases.

According to DA’s office spokesman John Hall, $354,000 of the grant money from the California Office of Traffic Safety will provide funding for a specialized team to investigate and prosecute all felony DUI with injury and DUI-related vehicular homicide cases in Southwest Riverside County; a separate grant from the COTS totaling $160,000 will provide for the prosecution of misdemeanor drug-impaired cases in the western portion of the county.

Both grants were approved Tuesday by the Riverside County Board of Supervisors.

The larger grant will pay for a specially trained deputy district attorney and a senior district attorney investigator, while the smaller sum will provide for a specific prosecutor to handle the misdemeanor drug impaired caseload, Hall said.

The monies will also be used to help combat the growing problem of driving under the influence, as well as coordination of DUI prevention and awareness programs, Hall said.

The goal of the grants is to reduce "the number of persons killed and injured in traffic accidents, primarily those in which alcohol or drugs are involved,” Hall said.

Deputy District Attorney David Tahan and Sr. DA Investigator Joseph Cristinziani have been assigned to form the specialized team that will go after the felony cases in Southwest Riverside County. Both are working from the DA’s Southwest office.

The larger grant to target those most serious cases was also received by the county last year.

“During the previous grant period – the first for the team -- they handled 323 cases which include four implied malice murders, seven gross negligence vehicular manslaughters with intoxication, two gross negligence vehicular manslaughters, 42 DUIs with great bodily injury, 94 DUIs with injury and 33 felony DUIs. They secured 97 convictions with combined sentences totaling more than 300 years in custody,” Hall said.

The funding period for the grants runs from Oct. 1, 2012, through Sept. 30, 2013.

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