published Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

Grant funds tighter DUI enforcement in Coffee County, Tenn.

BY THE NUMBERS

• $216,296.64: 14th Judicial District Attorney's Office

• $30,000: Manchester Police Department

• $13,760: Tullahoma Police Department

• $5,000: Coffee County Sheriff's Department

• $265,056.64: Total award to Coffee County agencies

Source: Governor's Highway Safety Office, the Tennessee Department of Transportation and local agencies

Drunken drivers in Coffee County, Tenn., are the target of more than $265,000 in grant funding for DUI enforcement and prosecution, with the biggest chunk going to 14th Judicial District Attorney Mickey Layne's office for two positions.

Coffee County agencies got a portion of $21.1 million in grants awarded to 370 Tennessee agencies for the 2014 funding cycle, according to state officials. The grants are distributed through the Governor's Highway Safety Office and the Tennessee Department of Transportation.

Layne's office got $216,296 to fund a special DUI prosecutor and a DUI coordinator to track and record enforcement and prosecution of the county's drunken driving charges, the single-county-district district attorney said Monday.

Layne says his office has had a strict, longstanding policy when it comes to prosecuting DUIs.

"We don't reduce them," he said. "We don't amend them to reckless driving or any other offense."

But such a policy places more burden on the prosecutor and "it means we have to try a lot of cases," Layne said. A specialist in administrative support and record keeping will strengthen prosecution efforts and convictions, he said.

Local attorney Marcus Simmons starts today as the specialist and Amanda Sliger begins her job today as the DUI coordinator, according to Layne.

"He will have an enormous workload, but he's a talented attorney," Layne said of Simmons.

Simmons also will lead DUI enforcement education efforts within the county in instruction for patrol officers and deputies who meet up with drunken drivers on the road, he said. Changes could be coming to DUI laws in the future, and Simmons will be charged with keeping officers up to date.

Coffee County Adult Drug Court case manager Janice Smith said a specialist in DUI will help all levels of drug court because impaired driving is a common offense for drug offenders.

"I have a caseload of about 47 right now, and eight of those are DUI-related," said Smith, whose caseload consists mostly of methamphetamine and prescription drug offenders. Most of her other cases have the potential for impaired driving issues, too.

The Drug Court has 50 to 60 second- and third-offense DUI cases now active, she said.

Grant funding also was awarded in Coffee County to the police departments in Manchester and Tullahoma, according to officials. Records show Manchester police got $30,000 and Tullahoma got $13,760.

"Ours will be funding for a few in-car radars and in-car camera systems, and for overtime for DUI enforcement," said Manchester Police Sgt. Chris Patterson, who will manage the grant.

Tullahoma Police Capt. Scott Jackson said the grant mostly will pay for overtime for DUI enforcement but some will fund two solar-powered radar speed signs that display motorists' speed as they pass them.

Those add to the five solar-powered signs the city has now, Jackson said.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569.

about Ben Benton...

Ben Benton is a news reporter at the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He covers Southeast Tennessee and previously covered North Georgia education. Ben has worked at the Times Free Press since November 2005, first covering Bledsoe and Sequatchie counties and later adding Marion, Grundy and other counties in the northern and western edges of the region to his coverage. He was born and raised in Cleveland, Tenn., a graduate of Bradley Central High School. Benton ...

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