Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey and City Attorney Mike Feuer joined law enforcement officials Wednesday in warning motorists that they could face arrest and prosecution if they drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs during the holiday season.
"This year, the message is even broader. It's not just about drinking and driving. It's about using drugs and driving," the city attorney said at a news conference at Los Angeles City Hall. "The number of cases involving driving under the influence of drugs that our office has handled has increased by 66 percent in just a couple of years."
The district attorney noted that her office has filed more than 12,000 DUI cases this year, and that there has been an "alarming trend" in Los Angeles County in which the number of DUI cases involving marijuana has nearly quadrupled since 2017 following the legalization of marijuana for recreational use.
"Whether somebody has legally obtained cannabis or not, it is still a crime to get in a vehicle and drive under the influence of drugs," Lacey said, vowing that deaths and injuries caused by impaired drivers will be aggressively investigated and prosecuted.
"These are senseless, easy-to-prevent crimes that destroy the lives of everyone involved," she said.
Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore urged people to "act responsibly" and rely on a designated driver or a rideshare service instead of getting on the road after imbibing.
He said there will be dedicated DUI checkpoints, along with "saturation patrols," to try to nab motorists who are driving under the influence.
California Highway Patrol Chief Mark Garrett noted that more than 2,000 impaired drivers were arrested last year during the holiday period, with 16 people dying and more than 350 people being injured in DUI crashes.
"We don't want to have to arrest people," he said. "We want to educate people out of this behavior. That is our goal."
Redondo Beach Police Chief Keith Kauffman -- the president of the Los Angeles County Police Chiefs Association -- urged motorists not to risk their lives or the lives of others.
He noted that the 45 chiefs in the association will "never forget" Liam Kowal -- the 15-month-old son of MMA fighter Marcus Kowal -- who was in a stroller when he was killed by a drunken driver. The September 2016 crash in a Hawthorne crosswalk left the boy's 15-year-old aunt injured. The driver was convicted of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated and sentenced to a six-year prison term.
The boy's father has "now entered into a new fight -- that fight is to keep Liam's spirit alive and constantly, year after year, like we're doing today raise awareness about the tragedies that come from driving under the influence," Kauffman said.