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.
John Patrick Barton was convicted of DUI three times in the last 13 years. The Texas courts sent him to jail on weekends, put him on probation and even sent him to state prison for ten months. They required him even to use an ignition interlock system while driving a car.
None of these measures prevented Barton from killing two members of a young family when he got behind the wheel of a car while intoxicated and proceeded to rear end their vehicle.
Barton drove his wife’s Mazda into the family’s car, it went into a spin that would leave Kandace Hull, 33, and her 13-year-old daughter Autumn Caudle dead. All five members of Hull’s family were in the car. Her husband, daughter and son were injured but survived the crash, reports the Dallas Morning News.
“It’s just kind of like somebody put a concrete block on your chest and you don’t know what to do,” said Linda Agee, a friend of the family.
A witness to the event estimated that Barton was traveling 80 miles per hour when he passed her on the highway. “He was swerving in and out of the lanes, and I thought to myself that this guy was definitely drunk,” said Laura Meade. She would see the crash happen soon after, when Barton apparently swerved to avoid the HOV lane.
Barton worked as a computer technician. He was paroled in 2009 after serving ten months out of a 3-year sentence in prison for DWI.
The results of the blood-alcohol test on Barton will not be available immediately, according to officials.
Barton’s previous record with DWI convictions raise the charges in the case to the level of felony. And because the crime that he allegedly committed was clearly dangerous to human life, officials are able to pursue the murder charges.
If convicted of the charges, Barton faces life in prison. His license was, however, still valid at the time of the deadly accident.
Friends and coworkers describe the Hull family as tight knit, and involved in sports and activities around the community.
Barton was also hospitalized, but his injuries were not as serious, and he will soon be transferred to a Texas jail.
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.”
Drinking and driving is a universal problem and many are searching for solutions.
Although most people start out with good intentions, one drink leads to another. Before you know it, you hit the brick wall and attempt to figure out how the night took a turn for the worse.
You go back and forth questioning your ability to drive and many times, unfortunately, the wrong choice is made. You start the car increasing your chances of committing a DUI offense and worse endangering yourself or others on the road.
But what if there was technology that could decide for you? What if it could tell that your blood alcohol level was over the limit? What if it would not let you start your vehicle to drive home?
For example, if a driver drinks way too much past the predetermined limit, then an ignition interlock will not start the vehicle.
These are usually placed in the vehicles of convicted impaired drivers and commercial vehicles to promote safe driving.
But we are jumping into the future and the realizations that the dangers of drinking and driving affect everyone on the roads. We live in a world where alcohol is a part of everyday life and when mixed with driving can be a deadly and costly combination.
A company in Canada called Alcohol Countermeasure System Corp is investing $18 million in the “next generation” of alcohol-sensing technology. They hope to commercialize this product to combat future drinking and driving.
Some countries have started putting these devises in public buses, school buses and taxis to prevent anyone caring passengers from getting behind the wheel while intoxicated.
Volvos are being built with alcohol sensors and will be sold throughout North America. This way if you decide to get into your car and you’ve had one too many, then your car won’t start – saving you from making the wrong decision.
These devices will no longer be just a form of punishment but of method of teaching drivers to not drink and drive.
Unfortunately in some situations we can’t judge for ourselves. Hopefully modern technology can help stop not only our generation but future ones from getting a DUI offense and worse.
Recently Gov. Jack A Markell signed two new bills into law to create stricter DUI penalties for people convicted of a DUI offense in Delaware.
House Bill 152: Increased Fines and Jail Time
House Bill 152 increases DUI fines for subsequent offenders, especially drivers with five previous DUI convictions. The bill also called for increased jail time for subsequent DUI offenders and creating a felony DUI for drivers with six and seven DUI convictions.
Last year there were approximately 6,916 DUI arrests, of which 59 people had been previously arrested at least five other times for drunk driving. Since January of this year, 3,213 drivers have been arrested for DUI, with 40 of those people having five or more previous DUI arrests.
House Bill 177: Strict Penalties for First DUI Offense
The second bill signed into law strengthens penalties for a first time DUI offense if the driver has a blood alcohol level of .15% or higher.
If convicted of a DUI with a BAC of .15%, the period of hard revocation for those who are mandated to have an ignition interlock device is increased from 30 to 45 days.
The driver’s license is suspended for six months instead of three, and the ignition interlock device must be used for six months.
The bill limits driving authority of an ignition interlock device licensed driver to work, home, school, alcohol treatment programs and interlock service provider appointments.
Source: Sussex Countian
The Illinois House of Representatives unanimously passed legislation requiring first time DUI offenders to install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles.
Several states have proposed universal interlocks Arizona and New Mexico have already signed bills into law requiring interlocks for all drivers convicted of DUI.
An ignition interlock prevents a driver from starting or continuing to operate a vehicle if a breath test registers a preset blood alcohol level (BAC).
Under the Illinois bill a convicted DUI offender who fails to install an interlock would be charged with a Class-4 felony, mandating a minimum 30 days in jail.
If New York Assemblyman Felix Ortiz has his way, the state will soon require alcohol-detecting ignition interlock devices on all cars and trucks.
Several states have or are considering provisions that require ignition interlock devices for those with a DUI conviction, but New York would be the first state to require the devices on every vehicle.
The issue is far from settled, with vocal advocates on both sides: civil liberties groups argue that the inconvenience to the large percentage of adults who don’t drink at all is unwarranted, and raise questions about exactly where the line would be drawn. Current ignition interlock devices won’t allow a car to start if there is any trace of alcohol detected.
But MADD and others committed to reducing drunk driving point out that ignition interlocks are the only sure way to prevent DUI, and a former National Transportation Safety Board Official is lobbying automakers to include the wiring for ignition interlocks in all cars, so they’ll be easier to install.
The success or failure of the New York bill will undoubtedly have long-term effects beyond the borders of that state, so its progress is worth watching no matter where you live.