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County DUIs hit double digits over holidays

By Don Frances INDEX-TRIBUNE NEWS EDITOR

Sonoma County drivers have been keeping California Highway Patrol officers busy over the past couple weeks thanks to drunken revelers, repeat offenders and a wanted felon from Ft. Bragg.

In the latter incident, the driver of a stolen Toyota Corolla was boxed  in at Commerce Boulevard in Rohnert Park on Dec. 26 following a brief chase and removed from the car at gunpoint. Officers arrested Joshua Thomas Hughes, 42, of Fort Bragg, after discovering he had an extensive criminal history including a suspended license and a felony warrant out of San Francisco for drug possession and possession of stolen property. Syringes, prescription medication and other people’s credit cards were found inside the stolen vehicle.

Other incidents have run the gamut. On the weekend before Christmas, officers announced 13 DUI arrests, including one of a driver who passed out on the highway. Then on the weekend after Christmas 10 more DUI arrests were made, seven of them repeat offenders.

In the case of the passed-out driver, a collision on Highway 101 near E. Washington Street in Petaluma – itself caused by drunk driving – resulted in stopped traffic around 5 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 21. Once traffic was allowed to resume, however, one driver failed to move; officers realized he was so drunk he’d fallen asleep. The man behind the wheel, a 25-year-old Vallejo resident, had already had his license suspended for a DUI in March.

Also that day at 3:10 p.m., a call to Stony Point Road at Rohnert Park Expressway revealed a multi-vehicle collision due to Branch Christopher Wroth, 38, of Forestville, who ran a red light in his Toyota 4runner, rear-ended a vehicle, put it in reverse and hit the car behind him too. Officers said Wroth was in possession of marijuana, hashish, prescription medication that was not in his name and a suspended license.

The following weekend was equally eventful. Among several incidents, a motorcycle rider was stopped on the evening of Saturday, Dec. 28 for traveling northbound on Highway 101 at speeds of 105 miles an hour while drunk. According to officers, a 23-year-old Healdsburg resident was chased down in his Yamaha motorcycle and finally pulled over in Windsor. The CHP reported the man showed symptoms of intoxication, but refused to answer questions or perform field sobriety tests. He was subsequently arrested and was found to have a prior DUI conviction.

On Monday, the Santa Rosa Area Office of the CHP put out a news release urging drivers “to begin the New Year responsibly.”

“If the celebration plans include alcohol, designate a driver before the festivities begin,” authorities stated.

A Maximum Enforcement Period throughout the county will begin on Tuesday, Dec. 31 at 6 p.m. and continue until 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 1. During this period, stepped-up patrols will be in effect, with officers keeping an eye out for impaired drivers.