Tougher DUI Laws May be Coming to North Dakota

A new North Dakota DUI bill is proposing tougher penalties on drunk drivers. The bill proposes to make a 2nd offense in ten years a Class A Misdemeanor, and a 3rd offense in ten years a Class C Felony. If passed, fines for all offenses would raise across the board. The minimum fine for a first DUI is currently set at $250 and the bill proposes to increase that to $750. The minimum jail sentence for a 2nd offense is currently at 30 days, but lawmakers are pushing to increase that to one year in jail after a second DUI conviction.

The new bill is being favored by Governor Jack Dalrymple, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem, and West Fargo representative Kim Koppelman. If passed, North Dakota would become the 16th state to require a mandatory jail sentence for anyone convicted of their first DUI offense. Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem says that he believe the bill may still be a tough sell because “too many people in North Dakota think that you’re entitled to one free bite at DUI.”

Backlash against lenient DUI laws in North Dakota erupted when an 18-month old Brielle Deutscher and her parents were killed by a drunk driver in July. The new law would be named Brielle’s Law.

North Dakota lawmakers are assembling in the beginning of January, and the issues remaining with North Dakota’s lax DUI laws are considered by Governor Dalrymple to be a “very, very important policy issue.”

New Mexico May Soon See Tougher DWI Laws

Gov. Susana Martinez’s office met with a young Colorado couple whose unborn son was killed in a drunk driving accident. The couple are working with the Governor’s office in hopes that the Legislature will pass Dimitri’s Law, a bill named after their son, which seeks to make the penalties for first and second DWI convictions much harsher.

The potential bill began when more than 2,700 people signed the Justice for Dimitri Petition which has signatures from people across the nation. At the next legislative session, Zach and Aileen Smith, Dimitri’s parents, will present the petition and the bill to New Mexico lawmakers. The Smiths say that penalties need to be tough on first and second DWIs, not on the fourth and eighth DWI.

The Smiths believe that a first DWI conviction should result in the driver’s vehicle being impounded, and that it stay impounded until an interlock device is installed on the vehicle. Even though New Mexico is one of a handful of states in the nation that require an ignition interlock device for a first DWI offense, some believe that this requirement is not being monitored or enforced appropriately.

Fliers Part of New Anti-DUI Program in Schuylkill County

An anti-DUI program in Schuylkill County is making itself visible in local bars and restaurants with the distribution of “Table Tents”. They are fliers that ask six questions on DUI laws and facts, and are intended to get people to compartmentalize the reality of a drinking and driving arrest. The questions include:

  • Q: How much alcohol is equal to one “drink”?
  • Q: A DUI arrest can result from impairment due to:
  • Q: How many people were arrested for DUI in Pennsylvania last year?
  • Q: What is the minimum amount a DUI in Pennsylvania would cost?
  • Q: What is the range of fines for a DUI?
  • Q: How many alcohol related crashes occurred in Pennsylvania last year?

The answers are:

  • A: 12-ounce beer, 5-ounce wine, 1.5-ounce shot
  • A: Just alcohol, illegal drugs, “designer drugs” (example: synthetic marijuana or bath salts) or prescription drugs
  • A: 57,000
  • A: $5,000
  • A: $300 to $10,000
  • A: 11,812 crashes

Many law enforcement agencies increase patrols around the holidays because there tend to be more alcohol and drug related crashes from Christmas to New Year’s. In 2011, Schuylkill County reported 72 motor vehicle accidents in the county, which resulted in two deaths.

Mahanoy City police Chief Mark J. Wiekrykas said, “We’ve seen an increase in the number of blood (test) results that are coming back (positive) for drugs.” He added that their first case of driving under the influence of bath salts occurred recently.

Austin Police Department Announces DWI Crackdown for the Holidays

Austin Police Department has announced that anyone who is stopped by police this month will also be given a flyer warning people of the dangers of drunk driving. Austin law enforcement agencies were urging citizens to drive safely this holiday season and were joined by the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Travis County Attorney’s Office, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD). The holiday seasons have upticks in DWI arrests and alcohol-related driving fatalities.

Officials urged drivers to be responsible and to adhere to a strict policy of no alcohol for drivers. “The goal is to plan ahead. Have a designated driver,” Robbie Barrera with the Department of Public Safety said. “A designated driver isn’t the person at the party that’s had the least amount of alcohol. A designated driver is the person that’s had no amount of alcohol.”

The city of Austin has had 74 traffic fatalities this year, and 60% have involved alcohol.

DPS is boosting patrols between Dec. 21 and Jan. 1. There will be increased staffing and patrols will be working overtime especially on holiday days themselves such as Dec. 24 and Dec. 25.

The flyer that is being handed out to people who are stopped by police details the deaths of Mayra Vega, 18, and Emmanuel Hernandez, 16, Travis High School Students who were killed by a drunk driver in 2006.

The NTSB Recommends All States Should Require Ignition Interlock Devices

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has recommended that all states update their DUI or DWI laws to require the ignition interlock device for all convicted drunk drivers, even first-time offenders. Currently, only 17 states require the interlock device for first time offenders. The NTSB completed a special investigation report on wrong-way driving collisions, of which more than half involved drivers impaired by alcohol. One of the study’s conclusions states, “New countermeasures to alcohol-impaired driving, as well as renewed emphasis at the federal, state, and local level, are needed.” Also: “The installation of alcohol ignition interlocks on the vehicles of all driving while intoxicated (DWI) offenders would reduce accidents caused by alcohol-impaired drivers.” The NTSB is is an independent federal investigative agency consisting of only about 400 employees and 5 board members. They have an annual budget of nearly $100 million.

The NTSB have pushed for widespread use of ignition interlocks for DUI/DWI offenders for many years. For this recent recommendation, the board cited a new study that found 360 people are killed each year in wrong-way driving crashes, and that 60% of these wrong-way drivers involved alcohol. The report emphasizes that seven of the nine wrong-way driving crashes had drivers with a BAC exceeding 0.15%. Additionally, 9% of those drivers had a previous record of a DWI conviction within the last three years.

The report had specific recommendations to the 33 states that do not currently mandate use of the ignition interlock devices for all DWI offenders, and also the District of Columbia and Puerto Rice. The recommendation specifically states that their governments should “enact laws to require the use of alcohol ignition interlock devices for all individuals convicted of driving while intoxicated (DWI) offenses.

The NTSB strongly endorsed continuing development of a “passive alcohol-detection technology” called the Driver Alcohol Detection System for Safety (DADSS). The DADSS would prevent drivers with alcohol in their systems from starting their vehicles if the system detects alcohol with its breath- and touch-based sensors. The NTSB has recommended that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Automotive Coalition for Traffic Safety would together to accelerate the widespread implementation of these technologies.

An opponent to these measures is Sarah Longwell, The American Beverage Institute’s managing director. She says the interlock devices need to be reserved for “hardcore” offenders, or those whose DUI or DWI involved a very high BAC (above .15%) or repeat offenders. She argues that first-offenders with blood alcohol levels less than double the legal limit need to be treated separately than those with high BACs or who have previous offenses. Longwell said, “You don’t punish somebody going five miles over the speed limit the same way you do somebody going 50 miles over the speed limit.”

If the DADSS systems continue to develop their technologies and become widespread, Longwell surmises that it would “eliminate people’s ability to have a glass of wine with dinner or to have a beer at a ballgame and then drive home.”

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, states with DUI and DWI laws that require interlock devices for first-time offenders include: Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Utah, Virginia, and Washington. Missouri’s new laws will not be fully enacted until 2013.

NHTSA Announces that Drunk Driving Fatalities Dropped in 2011

Mothers Against Drunk Driving is celebrating a historic milestone. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has released new data showing that the number of drunk driving fatalities in 2011 fell by 2.5% compared to 2010. The number of people killed in drunk driving accidents (DUI) in 2011 was 9,978, and for the first time this number is below 10,000.

The number of people killed in drunk driving crashes in 2010 was 10,136. The 2011 fatality rate also outpaced the 1.9% decrease in overall highway deaths. MADD National President Jan Withers said, “This drop in deaths is an important milestone in our nation’s ongoing fight against drunk driving and is further validation that MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving® is working. MADD urges state lawmakers to take advantage of recently passed federal funds available for states requiring all convicted drunk drivers to use an ignition interlock device.”

According to the NHSTA, the costs of alcohol-related vehicle crashes is estimated at $37 billion annually. The number of fatalities in 2010 equated to one person being killed every 51 seconds in an alcohol-related crash.

Many states will now require the ignition interlock device for repeat DUI offenders. In some cases, even first-time offenders may be ordered to install the device in their vehicle. Late in 2012, Alabama joined many other states by reforming their DUI laws and requiring these devices for certain drunk drivers.

MADD began the Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving® in 2006, and since the inception of this program the number of drunk driving fatalities has dropped by 27%. The main components of the campaign includes encouraging law enforcement efforts to set up sobriety checkpoints, pushing lawmakers to require ignition interlock devices for all convicted drunk drivers, and supporting the development of technology of breathalyzers and blood analysis to test blood alcohol concentrations.

Recreational Use of Marijuana Legal in Colorado Dec. 10

Recreational use of marijuana became legal in Colorado after Governor John Hickenlooper signed the Executive Order to make the “official declaration of the vote” in relation to the famous Amendment 64, which passed by a 55.33% majority on Nov. 4 of this year.

The declaration signed by the Governor officially formalizes A64 as part of the Colorado Constitution and now makes personal use legal. An adult over the age of 21 may also possess marijuana and is also entitled to limited home-growing.

Governor Hickenlooper created a task force to help residents understand the policy, legal and procedural issues that need to be addressed and resolved within A64.

The legal issues that may need to be ironed out include DUI Marijuana. Under Colorado law, any detectable amount of THC could lead to a DUI charge. How Colorado’s marijuana DUI law will reflect their new stance on possession remains to be worked out by lawmakers.

Florida Reconsiders Alcohol Standard for Ignition Interlock Devices

The state of Florida has one of the highest thresholds of blood-alcohol levels for a driver who has a court-ordered ignition interlock device in their vehicle. The ignition interlock device will prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver’s alcohol level is measured as too high, and Florida’s standard for the devices is set at .05, which is nearly the legal limit of .08. These devices are often used to deter DUI offenders from future drinking and driving.

The new proposed standard is .025 which is more “in line” with national standards, according to Julie Jones, the executive director of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. She is pushing for legislation that would lower the level for these devices.

Under Florida law, a convicted drunk driver must install the ignition interlock device in their vehicle if they have multiple DUI convictions, if they had a very high BAC (above .15), or if there was a minor in the vehicle at the time of their DUI.

Ignition interlock devices can carry a number of fees, including:

  • $12 interlock fee
  • $75 for installation
  • $72.50 for monthly monitoring and calibration
  • $100 refundable deposit or a $5 monthly insurance charge

Florida statutes require the devices to be installed on a first-time DUI offender if court-ordered. A second-time DUI offender must install the device for at least one year, or two years if they had a high BAC or minor in the vehicle. A third-time DUI offender is required to use the device for 2 years, and a fourth-time DUI offender is required to use the device if they have four convictions or more under the condition of a hardship license.

Independent Study Finds South Dakota’s 24/7 Sobriety Program Reduces DUI

According to a new RAND Corporation study, South Dakota’s 24/7 Sobriety Project has helped to reduce the number of repeat DUI arrests and additionally there was a 9% reduction rate in the number of domestic violence arrests. The 24/7 Sobriety Program is an alcohol monitoring program that is court-ordered when someone has been charged with an alcohol related offense.

Researchers in the RAND study found that frequent alcohol testing followed by swift but modest sanctions was efficient in reducing repeat drunk driving arrests. The study’s finding was that the 24/7 program was associated with a 12% reduction in repeat DUI arrests , and that overall there were modest reductions in traffic crashes.

The RAND Corporation analyzed data from 2004 to 2010, and Judge Larry Long has said that RAND independently analyzing the data lent to the reliability of the results.

The program requires those charged with multiple DUI’s to submit to twice-daily alcohol breath tests, and some participants were required to wear alcohol-monitoring bracelets as well as install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle.

Changes to North Carolina DWI Laws 2012, Laura’s Law Goes Into Effect

Laura’s Law went into effect on Dec. 1, 2012, months after the new DWI legislation was originally signed into law in 2011. North Carolina’s new legislation expands the sanctions and monitoring requirements of repeat drunk drivers.

The law is named after Laura Fortenberry, a 17-year-old who was killed when a three-time convicted drunk driver slammed head-on into the car she was riding in. The 28-year-old drunk driver, Howard Pasour, had three prior DWI convictions.

State lawmakers can now integrate Continuous Alcohol Monitoring (CAM) into both pretrial and probation requirements, this will essentially extend the period of use that the CAM can be ordered by court. Previously, CAM had a limit of 60 days. Lawmakers hope that this heightened level of monitoring will protect the community from the highest-risk drivers.

The CAM program is funded by the offenders.

In 2012, North Carolina DWI laws also expanded in the case of increasing punishments for Felony Death by Motor Vehicle. Previous law made Felony Death by Motor Vehicle a Class E Felony, which made the sentencing standard 3 or 4 years in the defendant did not have a previous criminal record. In the more serious cases when the defendant had a very high BAC, the prosecutors would sometimes seek Second Degree Murder charges, as in the case of Dr. Raymond Cook who was accused of killing Elena Shapiro in 2011. Now, the North Carolina General Assembly increased the punishment of Felony Death by a Motor Vehicle to a Class D, meaning a Level 1 offender without a prior record may be sentenced to 80 months (nearly 7 years) which just about doubles the previous sentence.