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Friday, May 20, 2022

Editor's Note: This is the first in a three-part series on the drinking culture of Gainesville.

When WebCT crashed last spring, David Moyal gave up studying and went to The Swamp Restaurant. A few hours and a couple of Bud Lights later, the 22-year-old pulled off West University Avenue when the red and blue lights of a police car flashed in his rearview mirror.

The officer asked him to balance on one foot and walk heel-to-toe in a straight line. Moyal's performance on the field sobriety exercises showed alcohol impairment, according to the University Police's arrest report. Then he was taken to UPD headquarters in handcuffs.

Moyal was one of an increasing number of drunken-driving arrests made by local police last year, a year in which two people died in car accidents involving alcohol.

In 2007, UPD arrested 182 people for driving under the influence, a 323 percent increase from 2004.

The Gainesville Police Department has also started cracking down.

The department made six arrests on charges of DUI at a checkpoint on Friday night at 3300 W. University Ave.

Gainesville Police screened 972 cars for violations, said Sgt. Joe Raulerson, who oversees GPD's Traffic Safety Team.

"We're out here trying to show you not to drink and drive," he said.

In 2007, GPD made 263 arrests for DUIs, according to records.

In 2006, Gainesville had 174 alcohol-related crashes, which accounted for 7.36 percent of the city's total crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistics.

GETTING A DUI

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Moyal, a fourth-year management major, said he noticed the police car following him but didn't feel impaired or that he had done anything wrong.

He was finally stopped on West University Avenue, since UPD's jurisdiction includes the UF campus and the four major roads surrounding it.

"I wasn't even drunk," Moyal said. "They pulled me over because they said I was following another car too closely, which wasn't true."

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He said the UPD officers were "out to get people," since it was the first night back after spring break.

"I could hear them saying 'I can smell the alcohol' before I had completely rolled down the window," Moyal said. "They were already assuming it before I even talked to them."

He said he thought he was targeted because he drove a friend's Audi with a fraternity bumper sticker on it.

UPD spokesman Capt. Jeff Holcomb said officers do not target certain vehicles. They look for driving patterns, such as speeding or weaving.

"We have a job to do, and we're doing that job," Holcomb said.

At the police station, Moyal gave a breath sample. He blew a 0.15 blood-alcohol level, nearly twice the legal limit, but he said he only had two beers.

Moyal said he had a stomach ulcer that doctors told him could have contributed to why his breath test was so high.

Since he did not agree to a second breath test required by law, his license was revoked for a year.

Moyal pleaded no contest in court, which means he didn't rebut the charges but also didn't admit guilt, and had to pay around $5,000 in fines and lawyer fees.

Students arrested for DUI can face a minimum of one semester suspension because of UF's DUI policy, according to Student Judicial Affairs.

"Whether we choose to handle an off-campus DUI is dependent upon how intoxicated was the individual, what was the reason for being stopped and how cooperative the student was," said Janine Sikes, a UF spokeswoman.

DUI enforcement

Two weeks prior to Moyal's arrest, GPD Lt. Corey Dahlem was hit by a drunken driver while on duty. Dahlem later died at Shands at UF. Dahlem's death heightened media coverage of alcohol-related cases, but enforcement has remained constant in the last five years, Holcomb said.

"It's a concern that all law enforcement agencies have," he said. "It's always a big deal."

Each year, the Florida Department of Transportation distributes grants to agencies in need of funds for planning projects. In 2004, GPD received a four-year grant for DUI enforcement, Raulerson said.

As a result, GPD has officers whose "sole mission is to enforce alcohol-related crimes," Raulerson said.

They patrol Gainesville from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday. The main things officers look for when pulling someone over are slow or slurred speech, red eyes and the smell of alcohol on the driver, Raulerson said. But he said field sobriety tests determine if a DUI arrest will be made.

Police encourage drivers to find a way around drinking and driving.

"It's in their best interest to use Later Gator and designated drivers," Raulerson said. "We would rather not arrest you for driving under the influence."

He advises students to "wear seat belts, slow down, and don't drink and drive."

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'never get over losing a child'

In September, 20-year-old Andrew Enriquez lost control of his car, crashed and lost his life.

Raulerson said speed and alcohol contributed to the UF history student's accident. At a UF Board of Trustees meeting later that day, UF President Bernie Machen said he died in possession of a forged ID and wearing a wristband from a bar.

Six months later, his mother, Sue Enriquez, said not one day goes by that she doesn't think about her son, who she described as nice, friendly and happy. About 2,000 people attended her son's funeral, she said.

"It was a nice thing that so many people cared," Enriquez said. "It was a nice tribute."

Enriquez said she misses her son terribly.

"You never get over losing a child."

She never imagined her son would get into a car crash in Gainesville. She said she worried when he made the five-hour drive home to South Florida.

Two days before her son's death, she learned about a prepaid taxi card offered by University Cab Cash.

The main goal of this nationwide company is to "provide students with a safe alternative to riding with an impaired driver or drinking and driving," according to its Web site. The company offers its services to universities in most states, though it wasn't clear whether the cards are currently accepted in Gainesville.

The card works like a credit card that parents put money on, so their kids can use it to pay for cabs, she said. She said it might have helped in her son's situation.

The mother of three always told her kids not to drink and drive, but unfortunately kids don't always listen, she said.

"Hopefully his death will prevent other tragedies," Enriquez said.

"His friends are rethinking drinking and driving."

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