Will Montana Require Orange License Plates for DUI Offenders?

House Representative Champ Edmund Proposes Orange License Plates for DUI Convictions

Champ Suggests DUI BillMontana State Representative Champ Edmunds sponsored a new DUI bill, HB 276, which seeks to require DUI offenders to use orange license plates on their vehicles. Similiar to Ohio’s yellow license plate practice, an orange Montana license plate would identify a driver as one who has been previously convicted of drunk driving.

KFBB.com said some may view the orange license plates as a scarlet letter. The license plates would be in use by the DUI offender for five years, and the license plate number would begin with “DUI”. The bill would also require everyone with a past drunk driving conviction to change out their license plates for the new orange plates. The supporters of the bill say that offenders should put their criminal history on display in an attempt to shame them.

Opponents of HB 276 say the financial strain of a drunk driving conviction is enough punishment for DUI offenders. In addition to the orange license plate suggestion, HB 276 also adds $100 in additional fines for the special orange DUI plate.

Open Containers are Legal in Minnesota on Frozen Lakes

What are the laws in Minnesota regarding open bottles of alcohol and driving on frozen lakes? Reporter Jay Kolls spoke with state officials about Minnesota laws concerning driving on frozen lakes and open bottles of liquor. He discovered that under Minnesota DWI law, a motorist can be on a frozen lake in a vehicle with the engine running and open a bottle of alcohol without breaking any laws. As long as the motorist is not intoxicated, there is nothing illegal about having an open container in the car, even if the motorist is driving with it.

However, if the motorist moves onto dry land, everything changes. Apparently, the strange loophole in the law stems from the legality of having open containers on a boat. This extends to snowmobiles, cars, and ATVs if the water is frozen. Also, if there is a plowed roadway maintained by a city or county across the frozen water, a motorist can be charged with an open bottle violation.

KSTP news found out that in Hennepin County, there have only been two DWIs written on frozen lakes between November and January. Ramsey County did not report any DWIs on frozen lakes. Mothers Against Drunk Driving were surprised to hear of the strange Minnesota loophole regarding open containers and frozen lakes, and said that they may use this loophole as ammunition to fight for stricter laws on open bottles of alcohol on open waters.

Indiana Senate Bill 168 Would Change How DWI Cases are Prosecuted

A new Senate bill in Indiana, Senate bill 168, has the potential to change how all drunk driving cases are tried in Indiana. The proposal came about after former IMPD officer David Bisard ran over three motorcyclists on his way to serve a warrant, seriously injuring two of the motorcyclists and killing one. Officer Bisard had an alcohol level which was three times the legal limit at .19%. However, his blood was taken by a medical assistant at a medical clinic, which is a violation of the current DWI Indiana law, which stipulates that lab techs must be certified to do work for a criminal case. Prosecutors dropped the charges against Bisard because the test results would not be admissible in court.

Based on the results of Bisard’s blood draw, he had been charged with seven felony counts of drunk driving and reckless homicide; he was also charged with a Class B felony count of DWI causing death with a blood alcohol level above 0.15% which carries a penalty of 6 to 20 years in prison. Bisard still faced one of the original charges of reckless homicide.

On September 4, Mayor Greg Ballard announces that new alcohol polices would be instated, such as requiring mandatory breath tests after any crash that involved a squad car.

Senate Bill 168 has only one change to DWI laws. It simply says, “Any other person qualified through training, experience, or education to obtain a bodily substance sample” and can have it used in court. The author of the bill, State Senator Randy Head, said, “What I’m trying to do is take a situation that maybe wasn’t as well thought out as it should’ve been and allow anyone who’s been trained to do the work that they are allowed to do.” The DWI bill must pass in January or early February and would go into effect July 1, 2013.

Montana Bill Submitted to Set DUI Standard

Montana may be the next state to set a DUI standard for marijuana. The law enforcement community asked the Montana Legislature to pass laws that will set the legal limit for motorists who drive under the influence of marijuana. The main active chemical in marijuana is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, more commonly recognized as the shorthand “THC.” Representative “Doc” Moore (R-Missoula) is sponsoring the bill which would set the legal limit at 5ng/ml (5 nanograms per milliliter). This is the same legal DUI standard that was set in Colorado and Washington, where marijuana was legalized in December.

Some oppose the bill, including Dr. Pat Pardis, a medical marijuana advocate who said the limit was too low and could criminalize those who have medical marijuana prescriptions. Montana Highway Patrol Drug Recognition Expert Kurt Sager testified that 490 of all blood submissions were marijuana related, and said that it is quickly becoming the most prevalent drug in traffic accidents.

Dr. Pardis told the Legislature that if they pass a DUI standard as low as 5ng/ml, then the Legislature may as well take away all the licenses of medical marijuana users because it was unlikely they would legally be allowed to drive anymore. “I think what you could do is just take the drivers licenses away of all medical marijuana users. I think we are down to about 8,000 now,” Pardis testified. “So you can just take their licenses away because none of them will probably pass the standard that you’ve set.”

Florida Bar Sued Under Dram Shop Laws

A sports bar has been ordered to pay $2 million after an underage drunk driver ran over a pedestrian and a 2-year-old girl. Isaac Sanchez was standing on the side of the road and holding his 2-year-old nephew when drunk driver Valerie Dibble drove off the road and then across a lawn before running them over. Valerie Dibble was 20 years old and had just left Crossroads Sports Bar, however the bar at trial claimed that Dibble had never been in the bar. Dibble’s blood alcohol level was at 0.228 which is more than twice the legal limit of 0.08.

The jury did not believe the Crossroad’s Sports Bar’s claim that Dribble had not been a patron at their establishment, and ordered that the bar ay Sanchez $2 million under dram shop laws. The drunk driver, Dibble, was convicted in a separate criminal trial of drunk driving and of causing serious bodily injury. She was sentenced to three years of community supervision.

Florida’s dram shop laws will hold establishments responsible for damages if they served an individual who caused a wreck who was under the age of 21 or if the individual being served is known to be “habitually addicted to the use of any or all alcoholic beverages.”

Young, White Males More Likely to Drive Under the Influence (DUI)

The Journal of Adolescent Health has published a recent article examining how young adults drink and drive (DUI). Different race and ethnic groups pose different types of unique risk factors, the study found. The study sought to identify the contextual risks and protective factors of teenagers who participate in driving. Data was collected from 10,271 adolescents from 1995 to 2001. 67% were white, 12% were Hispanic, 16% were black, 3.6% were Asian, and 49% were Male.

The longitudinal study found that whites were the most likely to drive under the influence of alcohol. They were followed by Hispanics, Asians, and blacks in all the models tested. There was an increased risk for future DUI when adolescents perceived that there was easy access to alcohol in their home.

The research team found that male teens from higher-income families and teens who owned cars of all ethnicityies were at a greater risk for drinking and driving than females, less affluent youths, and those who did not own cars. Another group of teens who reported other high risk behavior were also at a greater risk for DUI. These teens reported high-risk behavior such as binge drinking, marijuana smoking, and driving other peoples’ cars without permission.

Loophole in PA Law Favors Hit-and-Run Drivers Over DUI Drivers Who Remain at the Scene of an Accident

Panicked motorists who flee the scene of an accident may face lesser charges than if they stayed and faced the consequences. Pennsylvania lawmakers and prosecutors are bemoaning the sentencing guidelines for hit-and-run drivers, and are calling for increased penalties on these motorists. Under current Pennsylvania law, a conviction for causing a fatal accident while driving under the influence is a minimum of 3 years in prison. However, if a driver leaves the scene and is apprehended later, they can only be charged with fleeing the scene which carries a minimum of 1 year in prison.

By increasing the penalties of fleeing the scene, lawmakers hope to eliminate the incentive for hit-and-run drivers. A driver that has been drinking and causes an accident can potentially face a harsher sentence for DUI if they stay at the accident. Comparatively, a driver that leaves the scene and is not apprehended until alcohol has left their system cannot be charged with DUI, and will face lighter penalties even if the accident caused a fatality. By making sentencing guidelines for DUI with accident and fleeing the scene (even if no alcohol was involved), there is no incentive to do a hit-and-run.

Luzerne County First Assistant District Attorney Sam Sanguedolce told The (Wilkes-Barre) Citizens’ Voice that hit-and-run penalties should be greater than penalties for DUI in a fatal crash.

Last year state Rep. Dave Reed, R-Indiana County, wrote legislation to increase penalties on drivers involved in fatal hit-and-run accidents. A grand compromise was achieved and hit-and-run accidents with a fatality was made a second-degree felony instead of a third-degree felony, which carried a maximum term of ten years in prison rather than seven years. However, the one year minimum term remains.

Sanguedolce said that the change in law will likely not effect first-time offenders or people with little or no criminal history, because typically the maximum sentence is not sought out for those who do not have a long criminal record. “The maximum sentence may be so far away from the standard range that the judge would not reach it,” he said.

Kentucky Lawmakers Consider Tougher DUI Legislation

Kentucky lawmakers are being asked to consider changes to the state’s current DUI laws. House Bill 32 is being sponsored by Rep. Mike Harmon (R), and it aims to toughen drunk driving laws by increasing penalties on repeat offenders and by lengthening a conviction’s “look-back” period.

House Bill 32 amends the “look-back” period from 5 years to 10 years. This means that any DUI conviction that occurs within a ten year period will be considered for sentencing. Under current law, only DUI convictions within the last 5 years may be considered.

Under current law, first and second-time DUI offenders may serve their terms of imprisonment on weekends so as not to infringe on their employment and educational opportunities. HB 32 suggests that the court should rule whether a second-time offender has this option.

HB 32 reduces court-ordered alcohol or substance abuse education or treatment programs for first-time offenders from 1 year to 90 days.

One of the most notable potential amendments to Kentucky’s DUI laws is under Section 5. This change allows for vehicle forfeiture if a motorist is found driving on a suspended or revoked license stemming from a DUI offense.

New D.C. DUI Laws Combat Drunk Driving

Mayor Vincent Gray signed two bills which will toughen D.C.’s drunk driving laws. One bill addresses ignition interlock devices, which are machines installed into vehicles that will block a car’s ignition from starting if the driver is over the alcohol limit, which is set at .02%.

The second bill is related to the admission of breath requirements and whether certain evidence is admissable in court.

Under the previous law, the DMV could not recommend a driver use an ignition interlock device until after two convictions. The new law makes first-time DUI offenders eligible for the ignition interlock device.

The District will also begin using new breath-testing machines which feature digital readouts and ID scanners.

One of the bill’s signed also includes updates to the city’s procedures for administering the tests, which means more quality-control checks which should improve accuracy of the machines.

Frank Harris, a representative for MADD, believes these changes are going to improve DUI enforcement and keep drunk drivers off the road. He said, “”It’s one less loophole that a defense attorney can throw out there, one less roadblock that a defense attorney can throw out.”

Kansas DUI Laws Questioned after Drunk Driver Receives Light Sentence

The story of a Kansas University student who had both legs amputated after being struck by a drunk driver is putting a spotlight on Kansas’ DUI laws. 18-year-old Colby Liston is learning to walk again with prosthetic legs and accused drunk driver Julian Kuszmaul is facing a maximu of one year in jail, which Liston’s family believes is not justice for Colby.

Kuszmaul is being charged with misdemeanor DUI. The D.A. ruled there was no recklessness on part of Kaszmaul. A decade ago, Kansas legislators repealed a law which would have allowed battery charges for DUI cases that involved injuries.

The Kansas Supreme Court has a case law which states, “additional evidence, beyond evidence that an accused was driving under the influence of alcohol, is necessary to create probable cause for reckless aggravated battery charges. Simply driving under the influence of alcohol does not, standing alone, amount to reckless behavior.” [State v. Huser, 265 Kan. 228.]

In a press release from Charles Branson, the Douglas County D.A., he states that the D.A.’s office disagrees with the Supreme Court’s interpretation but is bound to follow it.

Liston’s family responded to Branson’s reasoning on their Facebook account, which said, “In order to change or get a new decision a prosecutor or DA needs to present another case. We feel Colby’s accident is a perfect case to present in order to get the case law changed. So it’s not a matter that DA Branson CAN’T charge aggravated battery it’s that he WON’T.”