Driving drunk charges are up to officers involved, police chief says

Published 1:05 pm Thursday, May 23, 2024

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

NATCHEZ — A recent arrest has raised questions about when and how local law enforcement officers administer tests to determine whether a driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Natchez Police Chief Cal Green said that the decision is up to the officer involved.

Police Chief Caroline Green

“That is really at the officer’s discretion,” she said. “In this situation, the officers had already arrested (the man) for indecent exposure and resistance. They just left it at that.”

Email newsletter signup

The man was arrested after allegedly falling asleep in his vehicle in the roadway with his vehicle running. After being woken up by the officer, the man got out of his truck and urinated in the roadway, which the officer witnessed.

“What would I have done? Personally, I would have pursued the DUI. But that is coming from a 27-year veteran, not an officer with five years or so experience,” Green said. “Believe me, we have since had that conversation with officers.”

Green said the officer in the case of this particular arrest was counseled on the incident. No disciplinary action was taken.

If driving under the influence is suspected, Green said the suspect is taken to the Adams County Sheriff’s Office and is asked to blow into a breathalyzer.

“That usually happens when we see the vehicle moving and moving erratically. That’s generally when you do a DUI test. In this case, he was sitting still, even though that doesn’t excuse why,” she said.

Green said Natchez Police officers do use field sobriety tests when those are necessary.

“When a person is already uncooperative, they are not going to cooperate with a field sobriety test. There is no point in doing (the tests) at that point,” she said.

Blood tests to determine alcohol content in someone’s system happen when the person has been in an accident with serious injuries or a death has been caused. In that situation, law enforcement must obtain a warrant to test the blood of the suspect.

“It would be nice if we had the authority that people think we have, but we have to work within the parameters of the Constitution. We can’t invade someone’s body and take blood without having a very good reason. And those reasons include serious injury or death of another person,” Green said.

Sixth Circuit District Attorney Tim Cotton said those who are caught driving drunk face Driving Under the Influence charges.

“Mississippi is a DUI state,” Cotton said, rather than driving while intoxicated, which some states use for drunk drivers.

Driving Under the Influence in Mississippi is punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or 12 months in jail.  A DUI in Mississippi is a misdemeanor.

“If it is aggravated by an event that includes injury or death, or if a person is arrested for three DUIs within a five-year period, it becomes a felony,” Cotton said.