2008 Has Just Begun.And So Has the Legislative Fight against Drunk Driving
By: Mary Ann Pekara
If there's one thing you should know about the New Year, it's that many new DUI laws officially hit the books on January 1st. With that said, the New Year is also a popular time for legislators to propose a plethora of DUI legislation as Congress and state legislative bodies reconvene.
Here are just some pieces of DUI legislation that are expected to be proposed in short time this year:
- Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen is expected to push a package of changes in the state's DUI laws following the findings of a task force that he appointed. One piece of legislation that is expected to be proposed involves revoking a DUI suspect's driver's license immediately upon arrest. Current Tennessee DUI law calls for revocation of a driver's license upon conviction.
In addition to this possible change in Tennessee DUI law, State Representative Kent Coleman was recently described in a story in The Daily News Journal as saying that the Volunteer State may move to a law mandating ignition interlocks on the vehicles of those convicted of drunk driving. Coleman also indicated that he would like to see more Tennessee DUI laws that place a greater emphasis on treating offenders with alcohol problems.
Of even more interest, State Representative Stacey Campfield, a Republican from Knoxville, recently said that he would like to ban lawmakers who have been convicted of DUI in the past from voting on legislation pertaining to Tennessee DUI laws.
- A proposed South Carolina DUI law that would mandate graduated penalties based on the level of intoxication is expected to be addressed by the state's Senate Judiciary Committee. This South Carolina DUI legislation would mandate increased DUI penalties based on three levels of blood alcohol content (BAC):
- .08 to .1;
- .1 to .16; and
- .16 and above.
According to a story in the Spartanburg Herald Journal, each level of intoxication in this proposed South Carolina DUI law would carry a fine and jail time along with the option of ordering community service in replacement of jail if it was the offender's first or second DUI offense. This bill would also drop the requirement that law enforcement officers have to remind DUI suspects of their Miranda Rights more than once.
- Washington State Governor Chris Gregoire announced last week that she would push hard for legislation that would set up roadblocks to detain and question motorists, even if they were not suspected of any wrongdoing. Gregoire has said that such roadblock legislation would aid in the fight against drunk driving in the state.
Washington is currently one of eleven states that prohibits roadblocks and views them as being violations of state constitutional protections against warrantless searches. Under her proposed Washington DUI legislation, Gregoire would surpass this via the creation of a system in which police would ask judges to approve a blanket search warrant on a county-to-county basis.
Naturally, such a Washington DUI law is receiving a mixed reaction. Back in April, the Washington State Supreme Court unanimously voiced its displeasure with random and suspicionless searches, calling them "nothing more than an impermissible fishing expedition."
- Ignition interlocks may be required for repeated DUI offenders in Missouri, that is if Governor Matt Blunt has his way. Blunt is calling for a Missouri DUI law that would require repeat offenders to install ignition interlocks in their vehicles prior to getting a driver's license reinstated.
Current Missouri DUI law gives courts the power to mandate ignition interlocks. However, current Missouri ignition interlock law is not without fault, as more than 80 percent of offenders bypass these court orders and avoid getting the devices installed, according to a press release from Governor Blunt's office.
- Hawaii lawmakers are also proposing a new DUI law that would mandate the installation of ignition interlocks for anyone convicted of drunk driving. These offenders would also have to pay for the installation and maintenance of the ignition interlock system.
Other expected Hawaii DUI law proposals include a measure doubling the time people convicted of DUI lose their licenses, a bill requiring DUI convictions to include 72 hours of community service, two to five days of imprisonment and a fine of $1,000, and a plan urging bars and restaurants to have breathalyzers.
- Police are calling for a new Wyoming DUI law that would prevent DUI suspects from getting out of jail until they are sober. This suggested Wyoming DUI laws comes after a DUI suspect by the name of Douglas Downs was released from jail on December 30th. Downs resumed drinking immediately after his release and later ran over 40-year-old Jeff Irene while driving his SUV. Dragged underneath Downs' vehicle for more than a mile, Irene suffered massive internal injuries and remains hospitalized. Downs has since been charged with aggravated assault and driving under the influence causing serious injury.
Current Wyoming DUI law allows each county to determine its own policy for releasing DUI suspects who have posted bond; something that those close to the Downs' case would most certainly like to see changed.
For the latest updates on proposed DUI laws, visit our DUI legislation page.