The legal battles over ignition interlock law has made it to the state of Georgia, as lawmakers debate a measure that would require more convicted DUI offenders to use the mechanism on their cars.
According to the Savannah Morning News, the bill, brought by state representative Tom Knox, is waiting to be reviewed by Georgia’s House Public Safety and Homeland Security Committee.
Representatives of Mothers Against Drunk Driving are urging the committee’s chairman, Burke Day, to schedule a hearing. Day has said that he will do so, but that he doesn’t know if he’ll do so in time for the state House to act on it this session.
In particular, the bill would allow judges to order the installation of ignition interlock on an automobile after a person’s first DUI conviction. The option for a judge to do so currently exists only for a person’s second DUI conviction.
According to MADD, Burke Day is “holding up and blocking” a hearing on the bill.
Day, in response, has said that he isn’t against interlock bills, but that he is “simply not going to let just any bill out until I have more facts,” and he emphasized that it is his job as chairman to make sure that bills are well-researched.
Day said that the state’s budget crisis has tied up hearing schedules, making it difficult to hold a public hearing about the proposed bill.
According to MADD representatives, in 2008 Georgia saw 416 drunk driving related deaths. They also said efforts similar to the proposed bill have reduced drunk driving deaths elsewhere by more than 30 percent.
While Day maintained that there were “other sides” to the issues raised by the bill, MADD lobbyist Frank Harris said that he had not heard about any opposition to the proposed bill. Day in turn responded that a public hearing often unearths this sort of opposition.
If the bill should stall this year, it will need a new sponsor next year, because Knox is giving up his spot as state representative in order to run for insurance commissioner. Of the bill, he said “I think it’s a good bill, and a necessary one.”
As of Sept. 1, people in Louisiana who refuse to take a breath test will have their driver’s license suspended for one year. The penalty is twice as long as the current penalty for breathalyzer refusal.
“Now … it’s worse if you refuse the test,” said DWI attorney Robert Fleming.
Under Louisiana DUI law, a driver who refuses a blood alcohol test on a first DUI offense will have his or her driver’s license suspended for six months and 18 months for a second refusal.
The new law that Gov. Bobby Jindal signed on June 1 doubles the first offense penalty and suspends the offender’s license for two years on a subsequent offense.
Supporters of the new DUI law feel that it will give drivers the incentive to cooperate with police during a DUI stop.
Many supporters say that currently the common thought among many DUI offenders in Louisiana is to refuse the breathalyzer test.
“The problem was that drivers were refusing to take the test” on the advice of DUI attorneys, said Jefferson Parish District Attorney Paul Connick Jr.
According to Donna Tate, executive director of the Louisiana chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Louisiana has one of the highest refusal rates in the country. In 2005, 39% of drivers pulled over for drinking and driving refused a breathalyzer, when the national average was 22.4%.
Some people are slow learners. Cases in point: This week we have two examples of people being arrested for DUI on consecutive days.
In Brownsville, Texas a man ran a vehicle off the road at 2 a.m. on a Tuesday. He was arrested, charged with his first DUI and released about 11:20 a.m. on $3,000 bond.
A mere six hours later he was picked up again after he hit another vehicle. He was charged, once again, with DUI – and a host of other vehicular charges – and placed in prison under $40,000 bond.
Two days, two DUIs.
But in Wisconsin, a woman topped the Texas mark, picking up three DUI arrests in three days. Her first arrest came as she tried to drive out of a ditch near a state park. She was wearing only one shoe and registered a BAC of .21.
Not 24-hours later her car was stuck in a snow bank and she was arrested for DUI again.
“I am still finishing up the box of wine in my car from yesterday,” authorities reported she told the officer.
She spent 12 hours in jail, but was picked up not long after her release. She was reported to be driving erratically and was found, once again, with a box of wine in her car. She will now spend 30 days in jail.
The new year is barely a month old, and already states across the union are already considering tightening their existing DUI laws. Some of these bills are moving so fast that the news is having a hard time keeping up.
In a flurry of DUI news, Oklahoma, Mississippi, New Jersey and Wyoming are all considering new DUI rules.
The state legislatures in Wyoming, New Jersey and Mississippi are considering ignition interlock devices for a first DUI offense.
In Wyoming, the devices would be mandatory for first-time offenders with a BAC above. 15. The laws being considered in New Jersey and Mississippi are similar. Both states currently require ignitinon interlock devices for for offenders with multiple DUIs, and the new laws would require them for all first-time offenders.
Oklahoma is considering mandatory vehicle forfeiture for felony DUI convictions.
Utah is the rare state in which legislators are debating loosening alcohol regulations. Although DUI regulations would remain as-is, Utah’s “quirky” alcohol rules – such as you must be a “member” of a pub to enter – may be changed to accommodate more tourist-friendly businesses.
We will keep you posted if any of these bills becomes official state law.
Carnegie Mellon Professor Jeffrey Hunker was charged with three DUIs within an eight-day period between Sunday, August 17 and Sunday, August 24.
According to police, Hunker drove into his neighbor’s yard and hit their house in the first DUI. His blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit.
Although police officers asked that Hunker be place in jail, the judge felt that the 28-day treatment program the professor entered into on Wednesday, August 27 was sufficient for the time being.
The University hasn’t announced any disciplinary action it will take at the moment. Hunker’s court date is scheduled for September.
Janet Landrum of Ellenton, Fla., was arrested on Saturday, August 23 for the tenth time for DUI. The 41-year-old woman has been arrested nine other times in the past 20 years in four states.
Landrum was driving with a passenger on Saturday at 2:20 am when she was pulled over for weaving, continually tapping on her brakes and making a wild lane change. Landrum had reportedly just met her passenger at the bar and was driving because the other person was too drunk to drive.
Deputy Lee Harrington arrested Landrum after she failed sobriety tests and had a .112 blood-alcohol level, according to a report.
Landrum has also been picked up for DUI in Kentucky in 1988, Tennessee in 1988 and 1993, Georgia in 1999 and 2001, and Florida in 2000, 2001, 2004, and 2005.
The records show that there was a second DUI arrest in 2002 but the charge was later reduced. Landrum could face up to five years in prison because of her number of convictions.
As long as no one is hurt or killed, a first DUI offense in Florida is considered a misdemeanor , but it becomes a felony if there is a third conviction within ten years.
The Fort Leavenworth Lamp reports that penalties for DUI in Kansas increased on July 1st. A first DUI offender with a blood alcohol level (BAC) below 0.15%, will have his or her license suspended fort 30 days, with a work and school license only, for an additional 330 days.
A second, third, or fourth time DUI offender will suffer a one year license suspension. For a fifth DUI conviction, a driver will have his or her license permanently revoked.
A driver under 21 years of age will have her license suspended for a year for the first DUI offense.
A DUI driver, with a BAC of at least 0.15%, will have her license suspended for a year for his or her first conviction. Following the suspension, he or she will be restricted to another year of driving with an ignition interlock.
Additional 0.15 percent DUI offenses will increase the length of a driver’s license suspension. On a fifth offense, the driver’s license will be permanently revoked.
In Kansas, a third DUI conviction has been and continues to be a felony DUI.
A Maryland first DUI offense now carries a one-year driver’s license suspension if the drunk driver is under 21.
A second DUI conviction will carry a two-year suspension for these drivers. The new Maryland DUI law is intended to hit teenage drivers where it will have the most impact, since fines are often paid by parents.