A statewide proposal aimed at forcing convicted intoxicated drivers to install vehicle ignition-attached breathalyzers hit a bump in the road Tuesday as state Sen. Jerry Hill agreed to wait until the Department of Motor Vehicles releases a comprehensive report on a more than five-year pilot program aimed at reducing recidivism. Hill amended his Senate Bill 61, which would have prevented DUI offenders from having their license reinstated unless they agree to install the ignition interlock device for a period of time related to their number of offenses — a law currently implemented under pilot programs in Alameda, Los Angeles, Sacramento and Tulare counties that are set to expire at the end of the year.
House Bill 111 would increase the maximum penalty for those who commit four or more DUIs from 13 months to two years in prison. A fourth or subsequent DUI is already defined by law as a felony crime. But with a maximum penalty of 13 months in prison, far too many of these cases have been resolved by taking into account time already served between arrest, trial and sentencing. The end result is no time in prison or a relatively short sentence. And in short order, the convicted multiple DUI offender is back on the streets – without a driver’s license but with plenty of opportunities to drink and get back behind the wheel of someone’s car.
The Kentucky legislature passed what’s called interlock ignition legislation and Gov. Steve Beshear is expected to sign it. Once signed into law, courts will order interlock ignition devices aimed at preventing repeat DUI offenders from starting their vehicles until their breath is checked. A first offender can also get a device if there are aggravating circumstances surrounding their case.
Gov. Christie on Monday conditionally vetoed legislation that would have repealed the mandatory suspension of driver’s licenses for first-time drunk drivers and instead required them to install devices that would be able to detect alcohol and stop cars from starting. As an alternative, Christie returned the bill to the Legislature and proposed imposing both penalties on all drunk-driving offenders. “By combining our existing, rigorous system of mandatory license suspensions with the active monitoring provided by interlock devices, New Jersey will provide new hope in the fight against drunk driving deaths and injuries,” Christie said in his veto message.
A proposed felony charge for repeat DUI offenders would apply to fewer people under an amendment to a current bill, which supporters plan to offer at the bill’s next hearing on Wednesday. The current version of the bill makes DUI a felony for a third strike in seven years, or a fourth strike in a person’s lifetime. The amendment would do away with the three strike option, a move designed to make the policy more palatable to reluctant lawmakers and lower the cost of the bill by putting fewer people in prison.