Lawmakers in Georgia have proposed a bill that would allow defendants to have their DUI arrests expunged from their records after five years of good behavior.
The proposal, not surprisingly, has garnered plenty of criticism in the state, particularly from the local chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, according to a report from WSB TV.
Barry Martin, the executive director of Georgia’s chapter of MADD, says he was surprised that anyone would even propose such a bill, as it could reduce the deterrent effect offered by harsher DUI sentencing.
Supporters of the bill, however, argue that it will give people who were convicted of drunk driving a second chance, and that it will reward people who learn to drive responsibly after their arrests.
The bill, which is labeled House Bill 799, would allow evidence of a DUI to be “permanently expunged” and “completely removed” from the record of the person who was previously convicted, provided that he or she maintain a completely clean driving record for five years.
Such a strategy would reward drivers for good behavior after their convictions, and potentially help people who have a hard time securing a job due to their criminal record.
The bill, however, does not distinguish between first-time offenders and people who have been arrested for multiple DUI offenses, according to Martin.
In addition, Martin claims that the proposed DUI law does not distinguish between DUI arrests that do not involve an accident and those that involve injuries or fatalities.
By refusing to distinguish between the nature and number of DUI arrests experienced by one person, Martin claims, the government is putting itself at a disadvantage and may potentially be clearing the records of people who are dangerous to the community.
Georgia police also hint that removing past DUI arrests from a person’s record could hamper police investigations into drunk driving accidents.
However, despite the criticisms, supporters of the bill emphasize that a record of a DUI conviction can have a permanently negative influence on an individual, and that people who change their habits shouldn’t be punished their entire life for one offense.
The one-page bill raises interesting questions about the merits of privacy and forgiveness, and the alternative interests of the community as a whole to protect pedestrians and other drivers.
State lawmakers across the country will undoubtedly follow the progress of Georgia House Bill 799, as its passage could suggest shifting attitudes towards DUI punishment.