Jessamine County has the seventh-highest DUI conviction rate among the 120 counties in the commonwealth.
The Kentucky Transportation Center provided the DUI conviction-rate report for the past five years to county attorney Brian Goettl in August, and he said the county should be very proud of the numbers.
Goettl’s office prosecutes those arrested and charged with driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol on a weekly basis.
The numbers in the report are determined by taking the total number of DUI arrests for a year and comparing it to the total number of DUI convictions for the same year. It does not take into account those cases that might have begun in one calendar year and continued into the subsequent calendar year.
Jessamine County’s conviction rate of 90.9 from 2007 to 2011 tied for seventh with Calloway County.
“First of all, what I attribute it to is law enforcement, those on the front line, the police and sheriff’s deputies in our county,” Goettl said. “They are the ones getting the evidence when they make these DUI stops, and doing things properly — if they weren’t, we wouldn’t be getting these convictions.”
Goettl said that the success was also due to the men and women in the departments of Jessamine County sheriff Kevin Corman, Nicholasville police chief Barry Waldrop and Wilmore police chief Bill Craig doing the arrests precisely by the book, which makes his office that much more effective.
“Secondly, we changed the focus of our office when I took over as county attorney, having full-time (employees) and even giving up a part of my income to make sure I could hire quality people,” Goettl said. “This all happened around 2007, and you can see our numbers started going up when everyone is full-time, (and) finally, I also have to credit our great assistant prosecutors, too.”
Anna Roberts-Smith is the head of the criminal prosecution division, and Goettl’s other assistant prosecutors are Eric P. Wright and Joseph C. Allison.
“They don’t get a lot of credit, but they go in to fight for justice every Tuesday, ready to argue these cases and ready to deal with suppression issues,” Goettl said.
Goettl said the organizational skills of his legal assistant Libby Spurlock, who handles the constant flow of documents and things that go on behind the scenes, that make him and his prosecutors ready in court.
The rise statewide in conviction rates — which include guilty pleas — is also because of a new plea-agreement package that allows some DUI offenders to accept house arrest and avoid jail, Goettl said.
“We checked with Mothers Against Drunk Drivers first to see if they had a problem with it,” he said, “but it really has brought down our resistance to a guilty plea because the prospect of going to jail is a major deterrent, and we’re used to seeing people fighting it ... just for that reason.”
The report from the transportation center is also used to develop the state’s annual crash-data report and helps the county attorney and law enforcement identify trends.
“At this point, it’s too early to say how the report will affect the county, whether or not it will impact insurance rates,” Goettl said. “It’s going to require some follow up, because there was some reference to some impact, but I can’t say what it’s going to be.”
Goettl is also still collecting data from the nationwide crackdown on drunken driving called “Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over,” which ran from Aug. 17 until Sept. 3 in Jessamine County.
“The numbers haven’t come in yet; we’ll probably see them more in terms of the arraignments,” he said. “But I think we have a reputation now of getting these convictions.”