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Probationers caught in sting

March 17, 2000|By BRENDAN KIRBY

You've heard of drug stings and prostitution stings.

On Thursday, local police conducted a different operation - an unlicensed driver sting.

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Police and investigators from the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration staked out the local probation office to check on people whose licenses had been suspended or revoked because of drunken driving.

Lurking in unmarked cars, law enforcement officers followed them to make sure they did not drive themselves away from meetings with their probation officers at 100 W. Franklin St.

"It's pretty surprising how many people do drive when they're not supposed to," said Robert Myers, chief investigator for the MVA.

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About 30 people had regular appointments with probation officers Thursday. Police cited two people with driving on revoked licenses and charged three people with driving on suspended licenses.

Those issued citations must appear in Washington County District Court, authorities said. Driving on a suspended license carries a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Authorities also charged one driver with a seat belt violation and cited a driver for a child safety seat violation, police said.

The sting was part of a statewide initiative to crack down on drunken driving, officials said.

"A lot of these people are revoked and suspended" for multiple driving under the influence and driving while intoxicated convictions, Myers told police from three agencies before the operation began on Thursday.

Law enforcement agents from the Hagerstown City Police, Maryland State Police and Washington County Sheriff's Department participated in the operation.

Myers said this was the 12th such sting - and the first in Washington County - the MVA has conducted since it began the enforcement in January 1999.

He said an average of between 20 percent and 35 percent of suspended drivers targeted by the stings have been caught driving.

Randall Blauch, regional supervisor for the Drinking Driver Monitor Program of the Maryland Division of Parole and Probation, said people convicted of drunken driving are required to meet each week with their probation monitor.

Two monitors in Washington County oversee about 600 cases, he said.

Probationers take breathalyzer and drug tests to ensure that they are meeting the conditions of their probation, Blauch said.

The average probation length in the Drinking Driver Monitor Program is about 18 months, he said. Repeat offenders, who comprise about a quarter of drunken drivers, must serve probation of between two years and 36 months.

If a license is suspended, the person must not drive until the suspension is over.

When licenses are revoked, the driver must appear before the Maryland Medical Advisory Board for reinstatement.

"I think the message is going out to the people that they are being watched," Blauch said. "I think before, they thought they wouldn't get caught. They just played the percentages."

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