Proposed Ohio DUI Laws Would Address State Problems through Different Means
By: Mary Ann Pekara
Did you know that more than 33,000 people in the Buckeye State have five or more Ohio DUI offenses?
State legislators are certainly aware of these disturbing statistics, and despite their best efforts to bolster Ohio DUI laws, they have been unable to cut down on the level of drunk driving accidents over the years and reach an agreement on what to do next!
The Columbus Dispatch recently depicted the current divisive debate between the state Senate and House of Representatives on how to bolster the DUI laws in Ohio. While the Senate is pushing an Ohio DUI law that would prohibit repeat offenders from declining a blood alcohol content (BAC) test, the House of Representatives would like to nip the problem beginning with first-time offenders by requiring them to install alcohol ignition interlock devices in their vehicles.
Specifically, Senate Bill 17 would prohibit anyone with two or more Ohio DUI convictions in the previous six years from refusing a breathalyzer test. The story described the frustration shared by law enforcement officials, legislators and safety advocates who are all perplexed that a DUI suspect could use a breathalyzer refusal to possibly avoid a DUI conviction.
In fact, these frustrated parties feel like Ohio DUI attorneys frequently tell their clients to refuse breathalyzer tests and take the alternative penalties as stipulated in the laws for DUI in the state. It is illegal to be driving a vehicle with a BAC of 0.08 percent under current Ohio DUI laws, which also stipulate that anyone who refuses a breathalyzer test will automatically have his or her driver's license suspended for one year. Frustrated prosecutors and law enforcement say this automatic driver's license suspension is absolutely meaningless to most repeat Ohio DUI offenders.
While law enforcement and prosecutors would like to see this proposed Ohio DUI law move forward, one criminal defense attorney in the story was not too excited about its prospects. Columbus criminal defense attorney Jon Saia equated this proposed Ohio DUI laws with the old Soviet Union in the story. Saia added that such an Ohio DUI law allowing police to make determinations based on such tactics would be ridiculous.
While the story certainly detailed Saia's opinions about his proposed Ohio DUI law, it did not reveal his comments about a DUI proposal from Senator Timothy J. Grendell. Under Grendell's proposed Ohio DUI law, repeat offenders would have to wear a "smart bracelet" that would monitor blood alcohol levels. The story added this proposed addition to current Ohio DUI laws would make it easier to prove criminal liability against those people who loan a car to someone else who is drunk and without a driver's license.
State House of Representatives Would Address Ohio DUI Laws Much Differently!
While the state Senate has target repeated DUI offenders in their proposed Ohio DUI laws, the House of Representatives is going after all offenders, beginning with first-time convicted drunk drivers in the state.
Representative Bill Seitz said that increasing DUI penalties for Ohio DUI suspects who refuse breath tests have proven to go nowhere in the past. Rather, he is crafting an Ohio DUI law which would require all Ohio DUI offenders, whether convicted of DUI once or numerous times, to install alcohol ignition interlock devices in their car.
Essentially, an ignition interlock systems requires convicted DUI offenders to blow into an installed breathalyzer in their car every time that they want to drive. If the ignition interlock device registers a certain BAC level, the car will not start.
While Seitz said he would base his proposed Ohio DUI law off a similar Nevada DUI law, Grendell disputed the effectiveness of ignition interlock devices in the story. He specifically said that ignition interlock systems can easily be circumvented by having someone else blow into the breathalyzer.
Despite Grendell's concerns, Seitz has had support for an ignition interlock device law. Local members of Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) said in the story that alcohol ignition interlock devices are the future in terms of making sure that first-time offenders do not get convicted of Ohio DUI law.
Seitz added that his DUI proposal will also include increased time periods for license suspensions but reduce jail time. Seitz call jail time an ineffective and expensive way to treat DUI in the state.
Ohio DUI Law Controversy Teaches an Important Lesson!
While Ohio legislators may not be on the same page in terms of what is the best way to go with the laws for DUI in the state, their attention to the situation reveals how lawmakers are constantly looking to curb drunk driving. Whether it be increasing DUI penalties, advocating alternative sentencing or doing something else, these concerted efforts further depict the importance of knowing the DUI laws in your state.