An 18-year-old from Tehachapi is facing serious DUI charges after his car, with four teenage passengers inside, overturned on a Highway 58 off-ramp. All five teenagers, 17- and 18-years-old and two of whom were not wearing seatbelts, were hurt.
This is the type of accident that Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) agents investigate to determine where the teen driver acquired alcohol.
"When a minor drinks, drives and crashes, it's an ABC agent's job to find out who provided the under-21 driver with booze, and if necessary, make the bust," said Kevin Highbaugh. Highbaugh is an ABC agent and president of the California Association of State Investigators (CASI), an affiliate of the California Statewide Law Enforcement Association (CSLEA).
Does that type of enforcement happen? Just last week, Jon Ruiz, 22, of Novato was charged after an ABC agent's investigation revealed he allegedly supplied alcohol to a group of teens prior to a violent crash last November.
The crash involved a 17-year-old boy with five passengers in his vehicle. The vehicle was travelling between 60 and 80mph, in a 25 mph residential zone in Novato, when it smashed into a fire hydrant and a tree. The teen driver admitted to drinking and smoking marijuana and pled guilty to a felony charge of driving while intoxicated, causing injuries.
The case was referred to an ABC agent assigned to ABC's Target Responsibility for Alcohol Connected Emergencies (TRACE) investigations.
"Our CSLEA members who are agents with ABC work days, nights and weekends in their effort to keep drunk driving accidents like that from happening," said CSLEA President Alan Barcelona. "They conduct undercover operations year round to prevent kids from getting their hands on alcohol and then getting involved in various levels of trouble."
During a "Shoulder Tap Operation" in Sausalito on April 30, 2013, ABC agents and Sausalito police arrested four people for furnishing alcohol to an underage decoy. On Friday, May 3, 2013, two Clearlake men were arrested for the same thing during a similar operation.
"We're asking parents, guardians, any adult who hosts a party for prom-goers or high school grads, please do your part to keep these young people safe by not providing alcohol," said Highbaugh. "This is a time when their futures are bright. If a teenager taps you on the shoulder and asks you to buy him alcohol, just say no. You may be saving a life."