Police & Fire

Hunterdon Creates Central Booking for Drunk Drivers

Hunterdon Sheriff Fred Brown at yesterday's county Freeholders' meeting. Credits: Curtis Leeds / TAPinto Flemington-Raritan

FLEMINGTON, NJ – A new shared services program aims to get more drunk drivers off Hunterdon roads, more cops on the streets, and at a lower cost for everyone.

The program, developed by Hunterdon Sheriff Fred Brown and the county’s Police Chiefs Association with guidance from Hunterdon Prosecutor Anthony P. Kearns, III, creates a central booking location at the county Justice Center here for DUI arrests.

The program also addresses a challenge faced by local police departments. Last year, the state  ordered that Alcotest machines currently used for testing suspected drunk drivers be replaced by police with updated versions sometime before next year, Brown said.

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“The central booking for DUI will eliminate the need for municipalities to purchase the new required equipment that can cost in excess of $25,000 each,” Brown said. And, county corrections officers will be available to secure those who have been identified as drunk, Brown said, until someone picks them up, as required by John’s Law.

John’s Law, which became effective in 2001, allows police to impound a drunk driver’s car for 12 hours, and established potential criminal liability for anyone who might pick up an arrested drunk driver, and then allow them to drive again while they remain intoxicated.

Having the corrections officers on hand will mean that local police will be able to resume their patrols promptly, Brown said.

The dedicated machines and central booking will be available to all Hunterdon police departments and State Police. They may use central booking as their primary test machine, or as a backup. That can be helpful because “the present machines do break down frequently,” Brown said.

Two new Alcotest machines will be placed at central booking; they’ll be paid for by the Police Chiefs Association. Because the machines are not yet available, two local departments have donated machines to get the operation underway. It should be operational in about a month, Brown said.

Freeholder John Lanza, who is a municipal prosecutor in four municipalities including Franklin and Delaware Township, said the savings don’t end with municipalities not having to buy the expensive machines, because the municipalities will also enjoy the “ongoing savings” of not having to maintain the Alcotest devices.

Brown announced the plan at yesterday’s county Freeholder meeting.

Freeholder John King praised the program, and called it a “Brilliant way to solve the problem where we don’t have the old ‘Andy of Mayberry’ jails anymore where you can go and hang out and let somebody sleep it off.”

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