Nov

16

New Laws Require Interlock Devices for DUI Drivers

By Mike

Sometimes, it takes the tragic death of a young victim of a drunk driving accident to convince legislators to enact effective laws against the dangerous practice.

Nevertheless, lawmakers sometimes feel they can honor a victim’s memory by ensuring that similar accidents are prevented in the future. This phenomenon recently occurred in the Oklahoma state legislature.

According to KOCO news in Oklahoma City, the newly minted Erin Swezey Act aims to monitor drivers with prior drunk driving offenses by requiring drivers convicted of a DUI to have an ignition interlock system installed in their car for at least 18 months after their conviction.

In addition, drivers who arrested for a second DUI offense will have to have an interlock device in their car for four years after their arrest. Subsequent offenses will lead to a mandatory five-year period with limited driving abilities.

The law is named after Erin Swezey, who died in 2009 at the young age of 20 after she was struck by a drunk driver going the wrong way on an Oklahoma City turnpike. The drunk driver had previously been arrested multiple times for DUIs and other traffic offenses.

By passing the Erin Swezey Act, legislators hope that DUI offenders will no longer be able to get behind the wheel after drinking.

The ignition interlock devices mandated by the new statute act as a sort of gatekeeper to the car. When an interlock device is installed, a driver must blow into it in order for the device to determine the driver’s blood alcohol level.

If the driver is sober, the car will start. If, however, the driver has been drinking, the interlock device will prevent the driver from starting the car.

The interlock devices are usually installed on a car’s dashboard, and drivers who are required to have the devices will also have a special notification on their licenses about the interlock device requirement.

Typically, interlock devices prevent driving if the driver blows between a .02 and .04. In Oklahoma, drivers are eligible for a DUI arrest if they blow above a .06.

While Oklahoma has been relatively late to join the interlock device movement, statistics compiled by the federal government show that the devices have a profoundly positive impact on the prevention of drunk driving.

According to the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, interlock devices have been able to reduce repeat DUI offenses by roughly 67 percent. In addition, the federal agency claims that the devices have reduced DUI fatalities by nearly 30 percent.

These figures certainly seem convincing, but they actually may understate the benefits of interlock devices. In Arizona, state officials say that their new interlock program has cut DUI fatalities by more than 50 percent.

Oklahoma officials hope that the Erin Swezey Act, which takes effect this week, will have a similar impact.

Oct

20

Montana Law Requires Daily Sobriety Tests for DUI Offenders

By Mike

Montana is known for its beautiful scenery, wide open spaces, and strong advocacy of personal liberties. Most notably, the state is famous for having the largest per capita gun ownership rates in the United States.

However, despite this affinity for personal liberties, Montana recently passed a new DUI law that some observers are calling too strict.

According to the Billings (Mont.) Gazette, the new law requires DUI offenders to perform breath tests two times a day as they await trial for their drunk driving arrests.

The program, which is only active in Yellowstone County but will likely spread to other counties soon, is intended not only to keep alleged drunk drivers sober before their trial, but to deter potential drivers from getting behind the wheel drunk in the first place.

The article in the Billings Gazette focused on Toni Allison, who was recently arrested for a DUI. After she posted bond, she was able to leave jail, but she has to return two times each day to do a breathalyzer test.

If Allison fails one of these tests, under the terms of the new law, she will be arrested immediately and may face new criminal charges, as well as forfeiture of her bond.

The law, which is named the “24/7 Sobriety Program,” is patterned after a similar regulation passed in South Dakota. It gives Montana judges the discretion to order the daily BAC tests for DUI repeat offenders.

Defendants who are forced to take the daily tests are required to pay two dollars for each test. If they miss a scheduled test, prosecutors are free to issue a warrant for their arrest.

Officials recently tested the new program in Lewis and Clark County, and reported a 99 percent success rate. Other counties are considering adopting an electronic monitoring program, rather than the test-on-site method practiced in Yellowstone County.

While critics of the program claim it is needlessly invasive, legislators in Montana believe that the new law will deter drivers from driving drunk, and that the law is necessary to curtail a practice that is perceived as a major problem on the open roads of Montana.

Montana used to be known for its relaxed driving laws. It was one of the final U.S. states to implement a speed limit, and it used to wear its lack of speed limits as a badge of pride.

Now, however, Montana is following a national trend of cracking down on unsafe drivers, as more than 10,000 people still die in the United States each year as a result of drunk driving accidents.

So, while the new law may be a nuisance to people who are arrested for multiple DUIs, it may be a helpful tool in the fight against drunk driving. At the very least, it will ensure a temporary period of sobriety alleged DUI offenders.

Oct

18

California Places Limits on Police Power at DUI Checkpoints

By Mike

California often seems to be on the forefront of embracing new laws, and it recently flexed its innovation muscles with the enactment of a new DUI law.

Under legislation signed by Gov. Jerry Brown this week, police officers in California will no longer be able to impound cars from sober but unlicensed motorists who are stopped at drunk driving checkpoints.

While this seems like a logical decision, and a victory for sober drivers, one key constituency has the most to gain from the new law.

Apparently, police in California have been using drunk driving checkpoints as a cover in an effort to catch illegal immigrants, rather than people driving under the influence of alcohol.

Previously, California had a law which allowed police to impound cars that belonged to unlicensed drivers for up to 30 days.

After 30 days, however, the accrued impoundment fees can reach thousands of dollars. The high level of fees often caused the car to be worth less than the driver owed to the police, leading many drivers to simply relinquish the car.

Because of these extraordinary police powers, illegal immigrants who were unfairly targeted at drunk driving checkpoints often lost their vehicles, even if they were perfectly sober when they were driving.

These questionable police tactics raised the concern of Latino legislators in California, who joined together to pass the latest bill in the state legislature.

Under the new law, which was written by Assemblyman Gil Cedillo, a Democrat from Los Angeles, sober drivers who are caught at DUI checkpoints without a driver’s license do not immediately lose their car.

Instead, law enforcement officials are now required to release the car to a licensed driver representing the owner of the car.

In situations where a licensed driver cannot be found immediately after the driver is stopped at a checkpoint, police may take the car to an impoundment lot. However, the police must release the vehicle to a licensed driver whenever one appears.

It is Cedillo’s hope that the new California DUI law will prevent police from unfairly targeting illegal immigrants for driving without licenses at checkpoints that are allegedly designed to stop drunk drivers.

It should be noted, of course, that the law does nothing to limit the power of police to stop drunk drivers.

In fact, by eliminating the distraction of targeting illegal immigrants, the bill may also have the side benefit of funneling more police resources to targeting drunk driving, as police spend less time worrying about immigrants who are driving without licenses.

Aug

1

Illinois State Supreme Court DUI Ruling Raises Concerns

By Topher

A recent ruling by the Illinois Supreme Court has proven controversial in the months following the decision as prosecutors have begun using it as a new weapon in DUI cases. Charges in DUI cases may be upgraded without evidence of a driver’s impairment at the time of the accident.

In April, the court ruled that drivers in fatal driving accidents could be found guilty of a felony if trace amounts of an illegal drug are found in their bodies.

The new ruling means prosecutors no longer have to prove that drugs contributed to a crash, simply that they were present in a driver’s system. In the original case, a felony conviction was upheld against a pickup truck driver showing traces of methamphetamine after he crashed and killed two people.

Just one month later, prosecutors in DuPage County used the Supreme Court’s ruling to upgrade a misdemeanor charge to felony aggravated DUI involving drugs. That upgrade changed the defendant’s possible sentencing from 12 months of jail time to three to 14 years in prison.

At least four prosecutions in Cook, DuPage and Kane counties have already applied the Supreme Court’s opinion, each involving alleged use of illegal drugs.

The new precedent has safety advocates applauding the decision, while defense lawyers suggest it may misinterpret the intent behind Illinois’ drunken-driving laws.

“What they’re saying is just because you used drugs in the past, even though you could be safe on the road at the present time, we don’t want you on our highways, and that’s questionable,” a Wheaton, Ill., DUI attorney told the Chicago Tribune.

Others concerned claim the decision may put prescription drug users at risk as the law applies to both illicit drugs and controlled substances. Drivers may be unaware of how long a drug can be detected in their system.

Prior to the court’s ruling, it was necessary to show impairment in a fatal drug-related crash, which was often difficult without a set standard such as the .08 blood alcohol limit for drunk driving.

The ruling grew out of a crash on Christmas Day 2004 when Aaron Martin, 24, left a Peoria bar in his pickup and missed a curve, hitting a car head-on and killing a 50-year old woman and her elderly mother. Trace amounts of methamphetamine were found in the driver’s urine, but no alcohol.

Martin was convicted of aggravated DUI involving drugs by a Peoria County jury, and the judge sentenced him to six years in prison. The conviction was overturned in August 2009 by a state appeals court, after prosecutors failed to show a causal relationship between the drugs and the driving accident.

The appellate decision was then overturned by the Illinois Supreme Court when the justices ruled “no causal connection” was needed due to Illinois’ longstanding zero-tolerance stance on drugged driving. The court’s opinion suggests the real crime is bad driving, which is why proof of impairment is not necessary.

Jan

10

Tougher Tennessee DUI Laws Take Effect in 2011

By Mike

Several new aspects in Tennessee’s DUI laws will make penalties for drunk driving, and repeated and excessive drunk driving harsher.

One new DUI law that has gone into effect will call for those DUI offenders who register a blood alcohol content higher than .15 percent to install and pay for an ignition interlock device if they want to drive at all.

Another DUI law will require state judges to determine if a DUI suspect is a danger to the community, and therefore be able to deny them bond. This caveat would typically impact those who are arrested for DUI more than once.

The Chattanooga Free Press reports that the new laws are part of a stronger package of drunk driving legislation which lawmakers hope will scare some DUI offenders out of breaking the law again. The trend towards stronger DUI law is certainly a national one, and this latest package only strengthens this trend.

Assistant District Attorney in Hamilton County Kate Lavery is one strong supporter of the new legislation. She said in statements that her hope is that the new laws will decrease the number of DUI offenses.

“We currently have people out on bond that commit vehicular homicide or other DUIs,” she said, referring to the bill that would make it easier to prevent DUI suspects deemed especially dangerous from getting out on bail.

“This will strike right at the heart of our issue,” she said of the new laws.

The ignition interlock devices, which force a driver to take a blood alcohol breath test before they can start a car, will cost offenders about $60 per month. This cost will be mandatory upon conviction.

Under the new legislation, such in-car breath testers will even be possible for first-time DUI offenders. Such a device could be the requirement for some in order to get their license back after a license suspension period or a restricted driving period.

If someone who is convicted of driving with a blood alcohol content over .08 while also having a passenger under the age of 18 will have to have an ignition interlock device installed, even if it is their first offense.

Ignition interlock devices will also be required for cases including an accident resulting in injury, property damage over $400, or if they refuse to take a breath or blood test following a DUI arrest. Again, the in-car breath test could be installed in these cases even if it is a first DUI offense.

Tennessee joins several other states in terms of the strictness of DUI penalties. Eleven other states require an ignition interlock device with a BAC over .15, and 13 state require it it for first-time DUI offenders, according to the Free Press. Other states require the device upon multiple drunk driving convictions.

Dec

15

Montana Attorney General Wants More DUI Monitoring

By Mike

Montana has a history of a DUI culture that is not as critical of drunk driving offenses as other parts of the country. Recently, the state’s efforts to curb drunk driving have led to more stringent policy.

Now, the state’s Attorney General, Steve Bullock, has proposed the expansion of a pilot program that calls for repeat drunk driving offenders to submit to regular breath tests during their sentence. The program is known as the 24/7 Sobriety Project.

The 24/7 Sobriety Project essentially requires that repeat DUI offenders stay sober all day and all night long, for the duration of their sentence. Whoever fails a breath test would be jailed and have their bond revoked. The idea originated in South Dakota.

Under the program, anyone who is arrested for DUI more than once must take a breath test that measures blood alcohol content twice a day, according to the Great Falls Tribune.

Expanded DUI prevention efforts would also include harsher penalties for those convicted of driving with a blood alcohol content that is higher than .15. Such measures are already in place in most states in the U.S. Such a charge, as proposed, would be an aggravated DUI charge.

In addition to the strengthened DUI laws above, Attorney General Bullock would like to make penalties for refusing a breath test more harsh than they currently are.

The proposals will need approval from the state legislature, which is controlled by the Republican party at the moment. Republican Representative Steve Lavin already plans to sponsor the bill.

Lavin is a sergeant in the state’s highway patrol. He argued that the bill wouldn’t cost anything because those who are required to take the tests would pay for the process themselves. “I just don’t see any opposition to it,” he told the Tribune. “I’ve talked to quite a few of my comrades, and they seem to like it.”

Attorney General Bullock hopes for the necessary political support. “I’m hopeful that all three of them end up with broad bi-partisan support,” he said of the three parts of his proposal for expanded DUI penalties and requirements. “This problem is not a Democrat or a Republican issue. I think these three (proposals) are great parts of what can be done.”

Nov

24

California Beach Considers Posting DUIs to Facebook

By Mike

Facebook and other social media sites are playing a much larger role in the way that lawyers and lawmakers publicize information. Now, according to an article in the LA Times, officials in Huntington Beach, California, have sparked a new debate surrounding DUI information and the social media giant.

Officials in Huntington Beach are considering posting the names of suspected drunk drivers on the city’s Facebook page.

This potential tactic of publicly putting those arrested for DUI to shame by spreading their names online would be one part of a broader campaign to discourage drunk driving in the community, according to Lt. Russell Reinhart of the Huntington Police Department.

The idea came up in a City Council meeting, when Councilman Devin Dwyer put the idea on the table for police officials to consider. He posed the idea as a response to the local newspaper’s lapsed practice of publishing the names of those facing DUI charges.

“I didn’t think public shaming for driving under the influence was such a bad idea,” Dwyer told the LA Times. “I would use any tool necessary to bring down the numbers of drunk drivers.”

This isn’t the first time that a police force has had the idea, and it’s part of an aggressively anti-DUI campaign.

Other parts of the campaign include committing more police officers to focusing their attention on drunk driving arrests, and sending written notices to drinking holes and bars when someone is arrested who was patronizing the establishment.

Huntington Beach is known for its alcohol-related incidents, and what the LA Times calls “a sudsy reputation.” There were almost 1,700 DUI arrests in 2009, and 274 collisions that were attributed to alcohol impairment. These figures put it in the top tier for cities around the same size in California in terms of drunk driving and alcohol-related crashes.

A report from the city referred to the situation as “a significant DUI problem in Huntington Beach.”

Understandable, then, that officials would be willing to toss around the idea of a more direct way to get drunk driving suspects into the public eye, in hopes of deterring others from deciding to drink and drive.

Publicizing the information isn’t necessarily scandalous, as it is already public information. “Anybody could go to the counter, get it and put it on their own web page,” said Lt. Reinhart.

These won’t be the first efforts made. In similar attempts to curb the combination of booze and driving, police banned beer pong and other alcohol-related games at bars in the city’s downtown area.

The City’s attorney will review the Facebook proposal, to make sure there are no legal problems with it.

Oct

2

Florida Dealership Markets a ‘DUI scooter’

By Mike

In Clearwater, Florida, a motor scooter dealership decided to implement an aggressive campaign to meet the needs of “specialized” market by offering what they call “DUI scooters.”

These “DUI scooters” are small, electric mopeds that are bright red and blue, with pedals, headlights and windshields. They don’t go more than 20 miles per hour, though, and they meet the federal description of a “low-speed electric bicycle,” according to an article in the St. Petersburg Times.

In other words, you don’t need a driver’s license to drive one, and those who have had their license suspended because of DUI may have another way to get around.

Doug Vitello and Gary Parr are the owners of Sunset Scooters. They were finding that they couldn’t quite meet the needs of their potential customers, so they did a little research into the DUI laws.

It turned out that the motorized scooter in question was an attractive option for those convicted of a felony or misdemeanor DUI, who had their driver’s license suspended and needed everyday transportation.

And while current Florida law may allow these scooters to be driven without a license, a driver could still face DUI charges if found to be driving one of these under the influence. DUI laws, afterall, apply to the operation of any vehicle, including scooters, boats, lawn mowers and more.

When Vitello and Parr learned this fact, they went searching for a scooter that was legal to drive without a license. They found one, made in China and distributed out of California. Then they put a sign in their window that said “DUI Scooters.”

When they sell a “DUI scooter” to a customer, Sunset Scooters provides customers with a copy of the law that says they are legal to drive without a license. They also recommend that customers laminate the law and carry it with them, to avoid misunderstandings with the police.

“At first we had some trouble with law enforcement basically not understanding what these were,” said Vitello. “Even some judges were completely mystified. But now they all seem to be on board.”

The so-called “DUI scooters,” made by X-treme Scooters and costing upwards of $2,000, look similar to regular motor scooters, if a little smaller, with narrower wheels and the pedals sticking out of the side.

The police in Clearwater were not so sure about the vehicle. Sgt. Tom Nestor told the St. Petersburg Times, “We’ll just say they’re under review for now.” The agency was, according to the article, “trying to determine exactly what these scooters are and how to handle them.”

Word of mouth has spurred the scooter sales. Sunset Scooters now sells around 10 per month. Parr and Vitello say that they came up with the “DUI scooter” term themselves.

Aug

12

New Jersey DUI Laws Could Change

By Topher

A bill advancing through the New Jersey legislature could make DUI testing mandatory in any fatal or serious car crash.

According to NJ.com, the legislation was prompted by a fatal one-car crash in Southampton, New Jersey in July 2007. Anthony Farrace, a passenger in the car, was killed when it hit a tree, and his body was tested for drugs and alcohol like in any autopsy.

The seventeen-year-old driver, however, was not required to submit to testing and was cited for careless driving and received a $200 fine and her license was suspended for six months. The accident incited Farrace’s father to push for a change in the New Jersey DUI laws.

Currently, drivers can only be tested when there is evidence or a strong suspicion that the driver is under the influence.

The new DUI law would require drivers to submit to a breath test or a blood test. If drivers refused to submit, then they would be subject to the same penalties as drivers who refused to submit in a DUI stop. First offenders could face fines of up to $1,000 and have their licenses suspended for up to two years.

A similar law is currently being considered in Illinois.

According to the New Jersey News Room, the bill is being sponsored by Democrats Nelson Albano and Paul Moriarty. Albano believes that the bill “makes common sense,” and that police would be able to “determine whether a driver was under the influence, and would be able to insure that impaired drivers don’t get back behind the wheel and will face serious charges.”

Moriarty is quoted as saying that “ testing for potential alcohol or drug use should be the rule when accidents result in death or serious injury, not the exception.”

The opposite side, of course, is that this is a bad road to head down. Landline, a magazine for truckers, points out that this expansion of implied consent laws and repudiation of probable cause is troubling, and would open the state to numerous headaches down the road because it is so invasive.

However, the article also notes that this is the second bill, and an identical effort died a year ago in committee.

This time around though, things look like they’re going differently. The New Jersey Assembly’s Law and Public Safety committee approved the measure in June, and forwarded it to the full Assembly in June, but a date for a final vote has yet to be decided.

What do you think? Is this an appropriate measure that will protect citizens and should be more widely adopted? Or is it an invasion of privacy which New Jersey should avoid putting into law?

Aug

7

New York DUI Law Requires Ignition Interlock Devices

By Topher

When the newly adopted Leandra’s Law goes into effect, New York will be the 10th state to require that anyone convicted of misdemeanor or felony drunk driving will be required to install an ignition interlock device on their car, the New York Times is reporting.

An ignition interlock device keeps a car from starting until the driver proves, via a breath test, that he or she does not have any alcohol in their system. The new law in the state is Leandra’s Law, named for a young girl who was killed in 2009 by a drunk driver. Her father, Lenny Rosado, became an outspoken advocate of tougher DUI laws after he lost his daughter.

The law will also make it a felony to drive drunk with a child under the age of 16 in the car.

Those required to install the ignition interlock device will have to keep it installed for a minimum of six months. The device must be installed at the driver’s expense. They are leased to drivers for a monthly charge of $70-110, according to the Office of Probation and Correctional Alternatives. Installation of the devices can be free, or can range in cost to up to $100.

According to the director of the OPCA, Robert Maccarone, an average of 25,000 drunk driving convictions come down every year in New York State – 4,000 of which occur in New York City.

The ignition interlock devices, which must be purchased from one of several state-contracted manufacturers, have a very low tolerance for alcohol levels in the breath of drivers. A car with the device won’t start if it registers anything that is above a .025 percent blood alcohol content. The legal limit is .08 percent.

There are a number of ways to deter falsified tests, as well. To keep a sober accomplice from blowing into the device, they have rolling retests, which administer another test every 5 to 15 minutes. This means that, to cheat the device again, the drunk driver would need to have the same sober friend with them.

When a retest fails, the horn starts to beep, and then a loud noise is admitted from the ignition interlock device.

There are also devices that snap a photo of the driver at the time the test is administered. Devices can also be configured to limit the hours a driver can drive the car, and they can resist hot-wiring and push-starting.

Denna Cohen, the president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Long Island chapter, says that the new law going into effect will save lives. “This is absolutely effective,” she said. “One drunk driver is all it takes to wreak havoc on a family.”

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety agrees that the devices are effective. “We know that alcohol interlocks do work to reduce recidivism, and strengthening interlocks to include first offenders is the logical step to curb alcohol-impaired driving,” said Russ Rader, a spokesperson for the group.

Maccarone said that, in New Mexico, a similar program reducing repeat DUI offenses by 37 percent between 2002 and 2008.

Jul

30

Ontario Enacts Tougher Drinking and Driving Restrictions for Teens

By Topher

Starting soon, Ontario will initiate the most strict age restrictions on DUI and drunk driving in Canada.

The new DUI laws will kick in on August 1, according to an article in The Waterloo Region-Record.

Under the new laws, drivers under the age of 22 won’t be able to drink a drop of alcohol, or take a single sip, before they drive a car.

The announcement came down from Transportation Minister Kathleen Wynne. Drivers under 21 won’t be allowed to have any alcohol in their blood while they are driving, regardless of what type of driver’s license they have.

Canada has a graduated series of licenses leading up to the G license, which allows drivers to operate any car, van or small truck and trailer up to a certain size. The G1 license allows a driver to drive in the presence of a fully licensed driver who has at least four years of driving experience.

A G2 license allows a driver to drive without accompaniment, but it comes with other restrictions on the number of passengers and the time of night they can carry passengers.

Even before the new legislation goes into effect, G1 and G2 drivers were not allowed to have any alcohol in their system when they are behind the wheel. With the new laws, only G license holders who are over the age of 21 are allowed to have alcohol in their system that does not exceed the legal blood-alcohol limit of .05 percent.

The legislation is only now taking effect, after having been passed back in 2009.

There was dispute surrounding the legislation, and lawmakers removed a provision that would have limited the number of passengers that a teenage driver could have in the car.

Drivers who are caught violating the new law will have their license immediately suspended for 24 hours, and they will face a future suspension and a possible fine of up to $500 Canadian dollars.

Emna Dhahak, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Transportation, told The Waterloo Region-Record that the legislation is “based on sound research and analysis.”

16-year-old Easton Page agreed with the law. “Mixing alcohol and young drivers doesn’t usually work out,” he said. “If you’re going to be behind the wheel you need to be completely in the right mind and focus on what you’re doing. You can’t have that taken away from you.”

Another young person felt that the law may single out young people. “I think that it’s a really good idea for people who are just learning to drive,” said Meghan Garber. “But I think it’s unfair how they target the younger people.”

Andy Murie, who is CEO of MADD Canada, offered that skeptics should check the numbers.

Those aged 16 to 24 represent 13 percent of the Canadian population, but account for 33 percent of DUI deaths. “They don’t just kill themselves,” said Murie. “They kill passengers, their friends, and they kill innocent people. They don’t get to choose when this is their performance.”

Accord to the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, the peak ages for DUI collisions are between 19 and 21.

Jun

19

New Wisconsin DUI Laws Take Effect Soon

By Topher

The State of Wisconsin is working hard to overcome its perceived culture of intoxication by imposing tougher DUI penalties.

Wisconsin leads the nation in binge drinking and drunk driving crashes, according to numbers cited in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel.

But a new push has led to a new series of DUI laws that take effect on July 1, 2010. The new laws include stiffer penalties for drunk drivers found with young passengers, a high blood alcohol content and multiple offenses on record.

The new Wisconsin DUI laws include additional penalties for the following offenses:

  • First DUI Offense: A person convicted of a first or second DUI offense who has a passenger under the age of sixteen in the car faces a fine of $350-$1100 or jail time ranging from five days to six months. If a first time offender DUI offender has a blood alcohol level of greater than 0.15 then an interlock ignition device will be installed.
  • Third DUI Offense: A person convicted of a third DUI offense will receive at least 45 days in prison. The sentence used to be 30 days.
  • Fourth DUI Offense: If an offender is convicted a fourth time within five years, it will be considered a felony. There will also be a fine will between $600 and $10,000, and possible jail time will range between six months to six years.
  • Seventh, Eighth, or Ninth Offense: A person convicted of this many DUIs will serve at least three years in jail for each offense.
  • Tenth Offense: A person committing a tenth offense would receive at least four years of jail time.
  • Repeat DUI offenders: Repeat DUI offenders convicted of DUI causing injury would receive up to six years in jail or would be required to pay up to $2,000 in fines. This punishment would be doubled if there was a minor in the car at the time of the offense.
  • Offenders with a lower BAC will face the same penalties: Under the old regulations, offenders with a blood alcohol level below .10 but still above the legal limit were subject to lighter penalties, but that is no longer the case.

The bill is expected to cost Wisconsin an extra $12.8 million per year, largely due to the costs required to house inmates. This cost is expected to be offset by the introduction of higher fees to reinstate revoked or suspended licenses, as well as by a program that would allow judges to decrease jail time in return for offenders completing a drug or alcohol abuse course.

Supporters of the bill say that this will not only drive the cost of the bill down, but decrease the rate of repeat offenders, saving Wisconsin money in the long-term.

Polls indicate that the Wisconsin public is firmly behind the change in the drunk driving laws.

Wisconsin Public Radio and St. Norbert College conducted a survey of 400 people, 85 percent of whom support the bill. Fifty-five percent also support using a higher liquor tax to help finance the bill, though that idea was struck down by Wisconsin Assembly Democrats before the bill was passed.

Jun

5

Missouri DUI Laws Get Overhaul

By Topher

Missouri governor Jay Nixon recently signed drunk driving legislation that will attempt to guide DUI offenders into alcohol treatment programs, and to strengthen punishment for repeat offenders, the Columbia Missourian is reporting.

The legislation will take effect on August 28, and according to Nixon it will make roads safer and make the drunk driving laws across the state more uniform. In the final days of legislative session there was little dissent from fellow lawmakers over a bill that will make drastically change Missouri DUI laws.

“This should mean that fewer families will have to answer a knock at the door in the middle of the night and learn that a loved one’s life has been cut short by a drunk driver,” Nixon said of the legislation.

The legislation will require trials for anyone with two or more DUI convictions to go to state trial courts instead of local municipal courts.

It also puts in place the means for law enforcement to standardize reporting DUI offenses to a statewide database. Reporting is already a requirement, but the legislation will require compliance certification to apply for grants.

The bill will also push alcohol treatment for repeat offenders and for those whose blood-alcohol content measures two times the legal limit. Also, trial courts will, under the bill, be able to set up DUI courts that combine supervision, drug testing, monitoring and treatment – all paid for by offenders.

The current legal guidelines for DUI came under scrutiny recently when a report from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch showed that the state was having trouble keeping track of just how many prior offenses DUI-convicted motorists had on the books. There were also a large number of cases in which plea bargains kept cases off the books.

The new DUI legislation was created in response to the outcry that resulted from these reports.
Around 35,000 people were arrested for DUI in Missouri in 2009. There have been 9,000 DUI arrests already this year. Over a quarter of the fatal car accidents in the state in 2008 involved alcohol, as well as 5 percent of all motor vehicle accidents.

“It shows our Missouri citizens that we are moving in the right direction,” said Missouri for Mothers Against Drunk Driving victim services manager Phaedra Olsen of the legislation.

Jun

2

Florida DUI Laws May Change

By Topher

A big change could be in store for the DUI laws in Florida if the governor signs a new bill that recently passed the state legislature.

House Bill 971 is on Florida Governor Charlie Crist’s desk this week waiting for his signature or his veto. As the governor weighs the decision, outside groups continue to debate the merits of the law.

The question at hand is really whether HB 971 would make Floridians more safe, or whether it will simply put more intoxicated drivers on the road.

Currently, Florida law permanently revokes the licenses of drivers with four or more DUI convictions (note the word “conviction” – a DUI arrest on your record doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve been convicted of the crime).

The new bill would allow these drivers to reinstate their license if they passed stringent requirements, including the installation of an ignition interlock system.

An ignition interlock system is a small device that requires a driver to blow into a handheld alcohol sensor connected to the dashboard. The sensor tests the driver’s blood alcohol level. If the driver is under the influence, the device essentially “locks” the car, and will not allow it to start.

There are other conditions for license reinstatement as well:

  • No one convicted of DUI manslaughter convicted is eligible for the program
  • There is a ten-year waiting period between the previous DUI and the reinstatement of the license
  • The driver must not have driven on a suspended or revoked license during the waiting period
  • The driver must complete a DUI program within six months of the reinstatement
  • For the first year the driver must also drive only to commute to and from work

Critics of the bill have several complaints about the changes to a law they feel currently functions well. First they object to putting multiple DUI offenders back on the road.

Another criticism of the bill is that it could potentially provide big business to the two vendors Florida has chosen to supply interlock ignition systems to the state.

Ignition interlock systems are not cheap, and the full cost must be paid by DUI offender. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle state that total costs come to almost $250 for installation and an additional monthly maintenance fee of $67.50. That’s about $1,000 for one year of service.

Some groups, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving, support the proposed law. With their license already revoked, many drivers with multiple DUIs hit the roads anyway, feeling they have nothing left to lose, proponents of the law say.

The new law will provide an incentive for “good behavior” and, through the use of ignition interlock devices, keep a closer eye on drivers.

In the minds of the bill’s supporters, the close monitoring of former drunk drivers is better than not watching them at all and simply punishing them when they further break the law.

The DUI law changes are only a part of HB 971, which as a whole would impart much-needed changes to the Florida transportation system. The bill is expected to be signed into law.

Mar

12

Jack Shea’s DUI Law Would Close Loophole in New York

By Topher

A proposed DUI law working its way through the New York senate and assembly would close a loophole and make it more difficult for drunk drivers to avoid prosecution.

The bill is commonly known as Jack Shea’s law after the Olympic medalist in the skeleton who was killed by a drunk driver in 2002. It has moved through the New York Senate, and now it must pass the assembly to go into effect.

Senator Charles Fuschillo, a supporter of the legislation, told the Legislative Gazette he was confident it would pass the assembly.

The new legislation revolves around Section 1194 of the state’s Vehicle and Traffic Law. This section defines who is allowed and qualified to take a blood sample at the scene of an accident from a person suspected of drunk driving.

In 2002, the driver who killed Jack Shea was able to avoid charges because of a loophole in this section. The argument that got him out of prosecution was that a physician had to directly supervise the drawing of blood samples.

In the Shea case, a police officer had requested that an emergency medical technician take the blood sample without a doctor present. Instead, a registered nurse and physician’s assistant oversaw the drawing of blood.

The blood sample had shown the driver to have a .15 blood-alcohol level at the time of the blood test.
Based on this loophole, however, the court had to dismiss the case, even in appeal.

The new legislation would take away the need for a doctor to be on the scene, and it would broaden the options for those with the authority to draw blood to nurse practitioners, licensed practical nurses and other professionals with a license to draw blood in New York.

When time is essential in many DUI cases, the ability of emergency first responders to draw blood could mean the difference in some situations. As it stands now, the law could discount blood drawn by EMTs and tested for blood-alcohol content.

Also, often in rural parts of the state, a doctor is not available to oversee blood drawing within a sufficient time period.

“This is another measure to strengthen provisions to get DWI drivers prosecuted,” said Fuschillo. He has been working on the bill since 2006.