Coming to ‘BAT’ against DWI

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 28, 2007

AHOSKIE – If you choose to impair your driving skills by consuming alcohol or through drugs, do not operate a motor vehicle.

That was the message sent here Saturday night through the early morning hours of Sunday as the Ahoskie Police Department, joined by several other law enforcement agencies, conducted a DWI (Driving While Impaired) checking station on US 13 on the northern end of town.

The checking station included the presence of the state’s BAT (Breath Alcohol Testing) Mobile, a police station on wheels that eliminates the need for the officer to transport DWI suspects to a breath testing facility, which results in more manpower at the checking station.

According to the data provided by Ahoskie Police Chief Troy Fitzhugh, the five-hour event resulted in 23 total traffic and criminal violations. The charges were as follows:

DWI n 3

Occupant Restraint n 1

Driving While License Revoked n 2

Other Traffic Violations n 15

Drug Violations n 1

Other Criminal Violations n 3

Officers with five local agencies worked the checking station. They included the Ahoskie Police Department, Murfreesboro Police Department, Hertford County Sheriff’s Office, North Carolina Probation and the North Carolina State Highway Patrol.

Also on hand were two Hertford County Magistrates, assistants from the office of District 6B Attorney Valerie Asbell, a state Forensic Analyst and BAT Coordinator Craig Moss.

“I would like to thank Mr. Moss for bringing the BAT Mobile to Ahoskie,” Fitzhugh said. “Without his help this event would not have been possible. I’d also like to thank each agency that participated. The Ahoskie Police Department appreciates your assistance.”

Fitzhugh said the main objective of the event was to promote safety on local roads.

“We saw hundreds of vehicles pass through the checkpoint where the driver and occupants were following all the rules of the road,” Fitzhugh said. “While they were abiding by all the laws, it was the few that ignore the laws that compromise the safety of others. The message was simply don’t drink and drive and make sure that your license, vehicle insurance and vehicle inspection are up to date.”

Moss, who resides in Wilson, said he takes part in events such as this one nearly every weekend. His BAT Mobile, one of six such units statewide, covers all areas of the state east of I-95.

“It’s busy work, but I really enjoy it due to what you see here in Ahoskie, different agencies interacting in an effort to ensure the safety of the motoring public,” Moss said.

The BAT Mobile is equipped with communications equipment, including an 800 MHZ radio to connect with the state’s mobile data network, on-board computers for data-processing, workstations for two Intoxilyzer 5000 breath test instruments, an area for the magistrates and other necessary equipment and supplies for processing DWI suspects.

After an officer at the checking station believes a driver may be impaired, Moss explained the procedure from that point. He said the officer performs a field sobriety test on the suspect. If the driver fails the field test, the officer makes the DWI arrest and then escorts the subject to the BAT Mobile.

Once inside the unit, the driver is advised of his or her rights. There is then a 15-minute wait prior to the driver blowing twice, six-to-seven seconds on each occasion, into the Intoxilyzer unit. The lower of those two readings is accepted and the driver then moves to the magistrate for judicial processing.

Moss said the BAT Mobile program is federally funded as well as generating money through court costs paid by the arrestee. Those funds, he said, help fund the state personnel and training used within the program.

“It takes very little, if any, state tax dollars to fund the program,” Moss said.

Moss is also responsible for Intoxilyzer training through seven regional offices. Additionally, he trains law enforcement officers on how to spot drug use among motor vehicle operators.