County in top 10 for OVI felonies

Published 10:15 am Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Lawrence County has made the top 10 in the state of Ohio for OVI felonies. With 14 felony cases over the past two years, the county is number nine on a list of the worst counties for felony operating a vehicle impaired violations, according to a press release from the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

The list takes into account statistics from Jan. 1, 2008 to Nov. 30, 2009. It does not take into account stops made by local police and sheriffs departments.

Sgt. Raymond Durant of the Ohio State Highway Patrol said the total number of OVI stops in the state has increased over the past few years.

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“There’s definitely been somewhat of an increase, but it fluctuates,” Durant said. “Our officers have always aggressively targeted OVI drivers and with the systems in place were able to track it.”

New technology has allowed the patrol to determine what areas in counties have had more OVI activity.

“You would say, ‘this is a target area, there are a lot of people in crashes, we’re making OVI stops.’ Maybe we would make that a road we would constantly patrol,” Durant said.

OVI cases are felonies if the person arrested has had four or more such arrests in the past six years.

With 42 felony cases, Lorain County topped the Patrol’s list followed by Belmont County with 22 cases.

With 739 OVI stops since January 2008, Lawrence County was not in the list of the top 10 worst counties for stops.

Durant said because Lawrence County borders West Virginia and Kentucky, it is possible that county offenders are being stopped in other states.

“A lot of those drivers could be going out of state,” he said.

Other law enforcement agencies could also be making arrests.

With the holidays approaching, officers are all the more on the look out for impaired drivers, Durant said.

“We’re always out,” he said. “During the holidays were out in full force.”

The patrol will not only be looking for impaired drivers, but also aggressive drivers and those who are not wearing a seat belt.

Durant recommends that people alert authorities if they notice a car with a driver that could be impaired.

“We don’t blow those calls off,” he said. “We do appreciate the calls. Our officers are out there patrolling the areas.”

Some characteristics of impaired driving are erratic driving, weaving, slower speeds and reckless driving.

Durant advises people who know they will be drinking to work out a plan for getting home that does not involve their driving.

Many court systems are holding people responsible to the fines imposed for OVI offences, he said.

“Be smart; use a designated driver,” Durant said. “Don’t drive under the influence.”