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Barrack is among leaders in DUI arrests

October 07, 2002|by RICHARD BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

Anyone who drives after drinking in Franklin County should watch out for Craig Finkle, a Pennsylvania state trooper who has earned a reputation as a top gun for pulling over drunks.

His record includes 85 arrests for driving under the influence in 1999, 89 in 2000 and 71 last year, said Jack Lewis, Pennsylvania State Police spokesman in Harrisburg.

Finkle's prowess in his patrol car has made his Chambersburg barrack top in the state in the number of DUI arrests in 1999, with 465, and 2001, with 489.

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The county was fourth in 2000, with 421 arrests.

Statewide, the agency made 11,459 DUI arrests in 1999, 12,176 in 2000 and 11,343 last year.

Finkle, 31, speaks modestly about his accomplishments in spite of the fact he has experienced first-hand the damage a drunken driver can inflict. His father was killed by a drunken driver 25 years ago.

"It doesn't have any real bearing on what I do," he said. "I don't set a goal, but I do try to be proactive.

"It's easy to find erratic drivers in Franklin County. It's a phenomenon here, and I don't know why that is."

Most DUI arrests occur in the area of Franklin County from Chambersburg south, state police said.

Finkle said many of the accidents to which he responds are DUI-related.

Sgt. Jeffrey B. Hopkins in the Chambersburg barrack said the unit's high standing in DUI arrests "is definitely due to Finkle's efforts. He's become an expert on detecting drivers who show probable cause on the road."

"He loves his job," said Sgt. James Brown, commander of the Chambersburg barrack. "If we told him we couldn't pay him for a couple of months, he would still do it.

"And he doesn't lose many cases in court."

It also helps that Finkle usually works the midnight shift, when most people tend to drive after being out drinking, Hopkins said.

Those convicted of driving with a blood alcohol level above .10 percent, Pennsylvania's legal limit for a DUI arrest, face severe penalties. They can lose their license for up to a year, spend at least 48 hours in jail, spend two years on supervised probation, pay fines, court and probation costs that can run into thousands of dollars and see their auto insurance premiums go up an average of $3,500 a year, police, attorneys and insurance agents said.

In addition, said Clinton T. Barkdoll, a Waynesboro attorney who defends DUI cases, drivers convicted twice of DUI have to pay $1,000 for an ignition interlock device to be installed on their vehicles. They won't start until the driver blows into a breathalyzer device in the vehicle that determines sobriety.

"I don't think the average person knows how serious or complicated a DUI charge can be," Barkdoll said. "The Franklin County district attorney's office does an excellent job of prosecuting DUI cases. Only a small percentage are dismissed."

Barkdoll recommends hiring an attorney.

"A lawyer will scrutinize the arrest and blood-alcohol testing procedures, and there's always the possibility of a plea bargain," Barkdoll said.

Attorneys fees often run more than $1,000, he said.

A driver charged with a first-offense DUI can be eligible for an Accelerated Rehabilitation Disposal Program, or ARD. Program rules make drivers undergo drug and alcohol evaluation testing and attend a safe driving school.

Even then, costs often add up to more than $2,000, Barkdoll said.

The benefit of the program is that a driver's record is wiped clean if there are no subsequent DUI arrests for at least seven years.

The local county's district attorney has discretion on the number of years.

Franklin County District Attorney Jack Nelson opts for 10 years or more, a spokeswoman in his office said.

Conviction on a first-offense DUI can mean at least 48 hours in jail, a 12-month license suspension, a minimum $300 fine and two years probation plus costs.

A second offense can means at least 30 days in jail plus fines and a 12-month suspension. A third offense is 90 days in jail plus suspension.

Barkdoll said about half of the DUI cases he defends are for subsequent offenses.

Convicted drivers often lose their jobs because they no longer can drive, he said.

A driver convicted of driving on a license suspended for a DUI conviction pays a $1,000 fine and spends 90 days in jail.

"What we find is that most people convicted of a first offense and who are under an ARD don't drive on a suspended license," Hopkins said.

It all escalates and accrues - jail time, the amount of the fine and length of suspension, depending on the number of DUI convictions and related offenses, Hopkins said.

Drivers who refuse blood or breathalyzer tests when stopped on suspicion of DUI face an automatic 12-month license suspension in Pennsylvania, Hopkins said.

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