If you get charged with drunken driving in unincorporated Spokane County or Spokane Valley, you will go to jail. No exceptions.
The Spokane County Sheriff’s Office corked an old policy allowing drunken drivers to forfeit their cars and walk home after a suspected drunken driver in Spokane Valley allegedly smashed several windows after being released last weekend.
Jail overcrowding often meant that people charged with misdemeanors, including driving under the influence, could be cited and released if they were cooperative, said Cal Walker, chief of the Spokane Valley Police Department. “There is a discretionary judgment call made on the part of the officer,” he said.
After Saturday’s incident, the Sheriff’s Office rethought that policy. “All DUIs will be booked, and all of their vehicles will be towed,” Walker said. “That involves any level of intoxication with a vehicle, whether it’s drugs or alcohol.”
People arrested by the Sheriff’s Office on suspicion of driving under the influence will be brought to the jail, processed and then have the opportunity to post bond if they meet the requirements. Deputies will still be able to cite and release people charged with other misdemeanors.
How much time those drivers actually spend in jail will be determined by the jail, Walker said. “We are not getting into any constitutional violations where we’re mandating that they have to stay a predetermined amount of time.”
The Sheriff’s Office has a contract with Spokane Valley to provide police protection. The policy change will affect both the Sheriff’s Office and the Spokane Valley Police Department.
Suspect was ‘calm the whole time’
The incident that led to the stricter policy began late Friday night when Officer Craig Chamberlin arrested Randy S. Macleod, 22, on suspicion of driving under the influence. His car was towed, and Macleod was brought to the Spokane Valley Police precinct for processing, where Chamberlin said the suspect blew a .124 on a Breathalyzer test, above the legal limit of .08.
“He was quiet, just sitting next to me, relaxed,” Chamberlin said. “He was just calm the whole time.”
Chamberlin, a traffic officer who specializes in accidents and impaired drivers, said he’s arrested hundreds of drunken drivers over the years. He often cited and released drivers if they were cooperative and sometimes drove them home if no one could pick them up.
On Friday Chamberlin couldn’t reach anyone to pick up Macleod and asked him if he would be willing to walk to his home at 824 N. Pierce Road because it wasn’t far away. Chamberlin said Macleod agreed and left.
About 30 minutes later alarm calls began coming in from businesses on North Pines. Police say video surveillance tape at the first business, Holiday Gas at 411 N. Pines Road, appeared to show Macleod approaching the business when the alarm sounded.
Police searched the area and found Macleod nearby but had to use a Taser to arrest him when he allegedly resisted. Chamberlin said he heard about the arrest on his radio and went to the scene.
“He was obviously mad, and he didn’t want to talk to me about anything,” Chamberlin said.
Macleod is accused of using rocks to break windows and doors at nine businesses. He was booked into Spokane County Jail and charged with first-degree malicious mischief. Jail records show he has since been released on bond.
Detectives may file additional charges later, Walker said.
Chamberlin said if Macleod had seemed upset or belligerent, he would have been sent to jail.
“He never gave me a reason to think he was going to go out and do anything remotely like this,” he said. “Citing and releasing was just a common practice. I’ve had a huge pit in my stomach ever since this happened.”
Walker said that several business owners have asked about getting the broken glass paid for by the Sheriff’s Office. Walker said most of them plan to file claims with the department’s risk management office, which will then decide whether to pay the claims.
Walker said the new policy will likely lead to a spike in the already surging jail population. In 2004 the Spokane Valley police alone made 251 DUI arrests.
Booking all DUI arrests will take officers off the street for a longer period of time. Chamberlin said it can take more than three hours to pull over a drunken driver and process and get the suspect booked into jail compared with two hours if the driver is cited and released. It takes even longer if the officer has to wait a long time for a tow truck to arrive or if the jail is busy.
“On a busy night it could be an hour, hour and a half just sitting and waiting to release him to the jail,” he said.
The Spokane Police Department policy is to cite and release most drunken drivers because of jail overcrowding, Lt. Dean Sprague said. But it won’t let drivers walk home or take a cab.
“If there’s a responsible, sober adult that can come pick them up, we let them go with a citation,” he said. “We try not to book unless we don’t have a choice.”
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