OCEANSIDE — Minutes after Joshua Miers pulled into an Oceanside police sobriety checkpoint, officers had the flushed faced, glassy eyed driver out of his pickup truck and performing a multitude of field sobriety tests.
As Miers walked the line heel to toe around 2:30 a.m. June 28, he remained calm and subdued, desperately trying to comply with the officers’ commands. With his shirt half unbuttoned, Miers told police he’d been drinking Pabst Blue Ribbon all evening. A preliminary alcohol-screening test, or PAS, collaborated his admission revealing a 0.14 blood alcohol level, nearly two times the legal limit of 0.08.
Subsequently, Miers was arrested without incident for driving under the influence.
“For the most part, people we arrest for DUI at the checkpoint are very cooperative,” said Sgt. Kenneth Gow, a traffic services supervisor for the Oceanside Police Department. “Where we have people get upset is when their vehicle is being impounded for a driver’s license issue. We have had people get very angry and verbally abusive in these situations.”
Miers was one of four DUI arrests made by the Oceanside Police Department during the sobriety checkpoint at Oceanside Boulevard and Vine Street, just west of the Interstate 5 freeway. Police also cited eight people for driving without a license and one man, Ryan Banks, for driving on a suspended license.
Banks had initially been taken from his vehicle on suspicion of DUI, but after several field sobriety tests and a PAS test, on which he blew a 0.07, the officers determined he wasn’t illegally intoxicated; however, because he was driving on a suspended license, his car was one of the 14 towed from the scene.
Other than Miers, the other DUI arrests were made by drivers trying to avoid the checkpoint. One driver was apprehended after officers caught him trying to switch places with his passenger, Gow said. Shaking his head, the sergeant said he didn’t understand why the driver just didn’t relinquish his keys to the passenger in the first place.
Though at a recent sobriety checkpoint, Gow said he was happy to find out that his officers contacted several vehicles with designated drivers.
A grant through the state’s Office of Traffic Safety enables the Oceanside Police Department to conduct one sobriety checkpoint per month, as well as other operations related to DUI enforcement, said Gow, a 19-year veteran with the Oceanside Police Department.
For 2009, the department received $272,216 for its DUI Enforcement and Awareness Program, according to the Office of Traffic Safety Web site. Next year, the Oceanside Police Department will receive $232,490 for the program.
With July 4 right around the corner, Gow said they conducted this sobriety checkpoint, in part to get the message out that the department takes DUI enforcement seriously. Because the Fourth of July crowds in Oceanside, which often exceed 150,000 people, max out the department’s personnel, he said the department will not be conducting any sobriety checkpoints over the holiday weekend.
Last year, Oceanside recorded four DUI arrests on July 4, as well as two on July 3 and July 5, Sgt. Kelan Poorman said.
In other coastal cities, like Encinitas and Carlsbad, overall enforcement will also be stepped up; however, again because of the overwhelming crowds, no sobriety checkpoints will be conducted, authorities said.
Last Fourth of July, Encinitas reported two DUI arrests, said Jeffrey Vandersip, a crime analyst with the San Diego Sheriff’s Department.
Meanwhile, in Carlsbad there were three DUI arrests last July 4, Lynn Diamond, a Carlsbad police spokeswoman, said.
She said unlike the Memorial and Labor Day holidays, which always occur over a long weekend, DUI arrests for the Fourth of July holiday can vary depending on the weather and the day of the week the holiday falls on.
Further, Diamond urged people to use designated drivers and report suspected impaired drivers by calling 911.