Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
formerly Driving While Intoxicated (DWI)

Drinking and Driving

As of September 1, 2001, the level of intoxication to be charged with a DUI is .08, made more stringent by the State of Alaska from .10.
Penalties increased in July of 2002.

The Kotzebue DUI Danger

With the growth of the number of motor vehicles in town, unfortunately, the rate of persons driving while intoxicated has skyrocketed. Drunk driving does and HAS historically and recently led to property damage and personal injury of the driver and of pedestrians and property in Kotzebue. Vehicles are damaged, people are hurt or killed, and utility power cut off for several hours due to intoxicated driving. Driving while intoxicated or 'high' is like making your Truck, Car, Plane, Boat, Snowmachine or 4-wheeler into a loaded weapon. A passenger died due to a DUI driver accident on a 4-wheeler in Summer, 2006! How do you think the driver feels now, while sitting in Jail doing 7 years with 3 year suspended for Criminally Negligent Homicide?
Remember, DUI laws apply not only to the operation of any motorized vehicle within the city. Drinking and driving laws apply to the whole state - private property or not.

2005 result of local Drinking and Driving
The Local REAR-seat passengers cracked the windshield of this car in a wreck on the tundra, having gone off the road at high speed.

result of local Drinking and Driving
The Local driver of this vehicle was drinking while driving
and sustained grievous injuries.

2002 result of local Drinking and Driving
The Local driver of this vehicle was drinking while driving
and doesn't remember the incident, except by his numerous injuries.

Why don't the cops catch all the drunk drivers?

The Kotzebue Police Department works hard to catch Drivers that are intoxicated. In fact, the police arrest many drunk drivers in Kotzebue. A rough average is at least 2 each week! This is over 100 each year. Some are repeat offenders, but that is way too many compared to the town's population. But many more drive drunk than are caught who endanger everyone.

Catching Drunk Drivers is a lot like fishing with a net. No one can catch all the fish, but one can certainly get many. The location of the net, the size of the net, and help in placing the net all factor into successful fishing. The Kotzebue Police do catch many drunk drivers just driving around town. If folk see or suspect a possible drunk driver, they can certainly call the police and give vehicle or driver information for them to look for (and many have called!). If the police stop the vehicle and the driver is not intoxicated, no harm is done. If an intoxicated person drives and no-one turns them in, they may injure or kill someone before they are caught.
To all the concerned citizens who have called in the past: We thank you!

One note about the DUI charge. You don't have to be DRIVING to be charged. One example is 'someone sitting in a car with the keys in the ignition'. They're not driving yet, but the intent and potential is clear. The person is a potential danger as he/she will likely be driving soon. Better to take this person off the street than to risk the general public. Would you hand a drunk person a loaded gun?

Penalties for DUI's (in the broadest of terms).

Penalties for DUI's escalate with repeated convictions.
First time DUI convictions usually have a minimum of 3 days of jail time, $1,500+ in fines plus lawyer fee's, and the loss of their driving priviledge for 90 days. The individual is required to carry SR-22 Vehicle insurance for 5 years in order to drive.

Second Convictions for DUI yield stiffer penalties, usually a minimum of 20 days of Jail time, more fines and fees including $1,000 cost of prison and 1 year license revokation.

Third Time and further DUI's are Felonies (within a certain time frame), which carry much more serious penalties.
Up to 5 years in prison, Permanent license revokation and $10,000 fine. In addition, the individual's vehicle registration will be revoked.

These don't count the inconvenience of Court appearances, tremendous Lawyer costs, time lost from work or family, loss of employment, and administrative dealings with the DMV, which are separate from the court. Later, a felony on one's record can bar one from certain employement or other opportunities.
Note: Some fines can be reduced with successful participation in treatment programs.

Another factor in DUI arrests is the Breathalyzer/Intoximeter/Datamaster (Chemical Test of Breath) test. This tests an arrestee's breath for alcohol content. Refusal to take this test is an additional and separate criminal charge. By obtaining a license, you've already agreed to allow a chemical test of breath. This is called the "implied consent law".

There's really no reason for the DUI rate to be so high in this town. Everywhere in town is within 'walking distance', and taxis aren't expensive, especially given the alternative. Designated drivers can be found for when the taxi's aren't running if necessary.

Best Rule for drinking: If you're going to have, or you've had, any alcohol, in any amount,
DON'T DRIVE! Leave your keys elsewhere!

When you're drinking, your judgment is seriously impaired, and you are not able judge how able you are to drive. However this is not a defense in court.
Before you drink and drive, take a tour of the Kotzebue Jail. You don't want to end up here.

If the weather is bad and there's no alternative late at night, we would rather someone call the police, 442-3351, for a ride than endanger him/herself or other's lives driving.

Calling the police on a suspected Intoxicated driver is not "Telling" or "Ratting" on them. You should call because you should be outraged this person is free to endanger or take the lives of the children, adults and even pets of this town in their own impaired hands by driving. It's being a 'good citizen'.

Further reading:
State of Alaska DUI Faq on Costs of DUI

Summary of Alaska DUI Laws

Blood Alcohol Calculator

Kotzebue woman pleads no contest to manslaughter 1993

Fatal DWI nets Knauss 25-year term 2002

DUI Info - News and terminology

Related Statutes

A.S. 28.35.030 Driving Under the Influence
A.S. 28.35.032 Refusal to Submit to a Chemical Test of Breath
A.S. 28.15.011 Driving While License Suspended or Revoked

Not Kotzebue, but this person thought he could drive!
(Youtube.com video)

1.5 minutes long video.

If you have questions about the DUI/DWI laws or Kotzebue Police Policy...
E-mail any DUI Questions to eswisher@kpd.otz.org

Posted 9/02, updated 1/03, 7/05, 4/06, 7/06, 11/07

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