Huntsville No. 1 in Alabama for DUI Arrests for 15th Straight Year

  • June 2, 2012
  • DUI

At almost midnight on a Friday night, a stretch of road along Pulaski Pike near Oakwood Avenue is quite busy.

The middle of Pulaski Pike is lined with 16 police cars in the turn lane along with a special vehicle known as the Bat Van.  These officers are looking for those drivers who use excessive alcohol or drugs.

These officers are part of the Huntsville Police Department’s DUI Unit.  This group has achieved something great for Alabama, something not even Alabama’s football team can claim – a No. 1 ranking in terms of DUI arrests.  Huntsville again led Alabama with 989 arrests,  The next closest police department was that of Auburn with 473 arrests.  Huntsville roughly tripled the DUI arrests rates in Birmingham, Mobile and Montgomery.

Officer Mitch Chappell also had the most arrests in the state.  This is the fifth year in a row he achieved that honor.

Most drivers on this Friday night, after a quick swipe of their driver’s license, are waved through the checkpoint.

But there are those drivers who raise a red flag when they attempt to pass through the checkpoint.  It could be they have no driver’s license, no proof of insurance, a missing headlight, ore even worse, the smell of alcohol or marijuana on their breath  In Alabama, driving with a blood alcohol content higher than .08 is against the law.

Huntsville announces the possible locations for checkpoints ahead of times.  The sites are picked on past accident rate, and details are approved by a local judge.

Hank Perry, a long-time DUI officer, said that they don’t have to go find them, that they find us.  This is what happened last Friday night.  Within the first few minutes after they set up, there was a two-car crash at the intersection of Pulaski Pike and Oakwood Avenue.  Sgt. Kevin O’Connell correctly thought when he heard the crash, that drugs were probably involved.  O’Connell said that when  drivers first see the checkpoints, some of them spaz out and slam on the brakes and there’s probably a reason for that.   When he checked  the driver did have drugs in the car.

Other drivers try something different to avoid the checkpoint.  They pull a u-turn in the middle of the street.  Police have that  covered, though.  Huntsville officers lay in wait, and quickly overtake any drivers who attempt to flee.  

When the night is over – it started at 11:30 p.m. and ended about 2:30 a.m. – there will be six DUI arrests, one arrest on a felony warrant and 146 citations, including 73 for lack of insurance, 17 for tag violations and 14 for license violations.   Police will also impound five vehicles before the night is over.

Phil Price, one of the leading DUI lawyers in Huntsville, had said that if you asked him why there are so many arrests in Huntsville, he thinks Huntsville is one of the few places where the DUI task force is dedicated to our DUI law.