State money helps put more drunk drivers behind bars

RIPLEY, TN (WMC-TV) - In the coming months, sheriff's deputies in Tipton and Fayette counties will be on the lookout for drunk drivers.

Thursday, District Attorney Mike Dunavant said his office recently received over $200,000 from the Governor's Highway Safety Office.  Dunavant used the money in part to hire a new prosecutor, who is determined to put more drunk drivers behind bars.

The money will also aid deputies in their patrols.

"We will be using overtime for roadblocks; we will be using overtime for DUI checkpoints, (and) we will be using the money for rolling traffic enforcement," Tipton County Sheriff's Department Deputy Bob Beanblossom said.

Dunavant said deputies will work closely with the new prosecutor.

"They're creating more arrests and more cases, and someone has to prosecute those, and now this is the prosecution component to that model," Dunavant said.

In Tipton County, additional funding helped purchase dash cameras inside patrol cars.

Deputies say the in-car cameras help in the prosecution of DUI cases because they catch drunk drivers in the act. Video from such cameras is often used in court.

"Video is some of the best evidence we can really have in court. It can prove impairment and that people are under the influence when driving," Dunavant said.

It's also costly to drink and drive.  After your fourth offense, you could end up spending one year in jail, and losing your license for up to five years.

"It's very costly in terms of lives, it's costly in terms of medical expenses, (and) it's costly in terms of families," Beanblossom said.

And officials say the benefits far outweigh the cost if only one life is saved.

Dunavant said by catching drunk drivers, his district is more likely to receive additional funding in the future to continue the program.

Click here to e-mail Justin Hanson.