By Reggie Ellis

In another effort to deter drinking and driving, the Exeter City Council has authorized the police department to bill for blood alcohol level testing and an officer's time to respond, gather information and write reports for DUI incidents.

Lt. Cliff Bush said the department will charge a fee of $120 to $185, depending on the amount of time it takes the officer and the type of testing, such as blood, breath or urine.

"If it is a DUI-related accident, that is going to take more time and cost the city more to respond to than just pulling someone over," Bush told the council at its July 12 meeting. "It's time we started recouping some of these costs."

City Administrator and Police Chief John Kunkel said the city now has a third party collection agency to pursue people who do not pay city fines and fees. "They boast about 60% collection rate, so that could be a lot of money," Kunkel said.

Bush said the department averages about 100 DUI arrests each year, which could bring an additional $120,000 to the city. Bush said that cities have the power to initiate the fees based on California Government Code Section 53150, which states, "Any person who is under the influence of an alcoholic beverage or any drug, or the combined influence of an alcoholic beverage and any drug, whose negligent operation of a motor vehicle caused by that influence proximately causes any incident resulting in an appropriate emergency response, and any person whose intentionally wrongful conduct proximately causes any incident resulting in an appropriate emergency response, is liable for the expense of an emergency response by a public agency to the incident.

Bush said all but two agencies in the county have similar fees. The police department updated its entire fee schedule at the meeting for the first time since 1999. Another new fee was $20 for Live Scan Fingerprint Service, an electronic fingerprinting system which returns matches within 24 hours, instead of the weeks it takes for traditional ink fingerprints. Other fees updated are:

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