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.”

Supreme Court Will Hear Case on Warrantless Blood Draws

Missouri v. McNeely is scheduled for argument before the Supreme Court tomorrow. The case involves a Missouri man who had his blood drawn during a DWI arrest without giving consent. Missouri is one of 21 states that allows for blood tests without a warrant in drunk driving cases.

The DWI law went into effect on August 28, 2010. Patrolman Mark Winder arrested Tyler McNeely on October 3, 2010 for DWI. He had read an article in Traffic Safety News by a prosecutor who suggest that no warrant was needed for a blood draw of a non-consenting DWI suspect. Relying on this, Winder took McNeely to a local hospital to have his blood drawn without first obtaining a warrant.

McNeely argues that a warrantless blood draw is a violation of one’s Fourth Amendment rights to be free of search and seizure. Missouri asserts that allowing warrantless blood draws for DWI investigations allows the state to effectively enforce drunk driving laws. Additionally, Missouri states that without an expedient blood test, the alcohol in a person’s blood stream could dissipate and destroy evidence.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, attorney generals from 32 states, the District of Columbia, and the Obama Administration are siding with Missouri, and are urging the Supreme Court to conclude that warrantless blood draws are not in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Dauphin County Judge’s Ruling Has Potential to Overturn Thousands of DUI Convictions

Dauphin County judge Lawrence F. Clark Jr. has ruled to void breathalyzer evidence in 20 of the highest-penalized DUI cases in the county. Judge Clark Jr.’s ruling decision came after convincing evidence showed that the breathalyzer machines used could not provide an accurate reading beyond 0.15 percent.

A driver in Pennsylvania can be charged with DUI if their blood alcohol content is above 0.08% (the national standard). Under Pennsylvania law (75 Pa.C.S. Section 3802) (b), a driver can be charged with DUI or actual physical control if their BAC is between .08% and .10% and they will face higher penalties than “General Impairment.” The highest rate of alcohol charge deals with those whose alcohol concentration measurable by breath or blood is above .16%.

The last charge is what is specifically being effected by Judge Clark Jr.’s ruling. If breathalyzers cannot accurately measure above .15%, then not all of those charged with the highest rate of alcohol may be guilty of that charge.

Judge Clark Jr. also ruled that DUI prosecutions obtained by evidence using the 5000EN breathalyzer must be considered “extremely questionable.” Testimony of the breathalyzers convinced the judge that the machines are not properly calibrated to give accurate readings at any level. The judge said that the machines are not calibrated according to state regulations.

Justin McShane is the DUI attorney who filed a challenge on his client’s behalf. DUI attorney Justin McShane challenged the accuracy of the breathalyzers, and asked Judge Clark Jr. to void the breathalyzer evidence used by the police. As a result, Judge Clark Jr. not only voided the evidence in Justin McShane’s client’s case, but also in 19 other highest-rate DUI cases in Dauphin County court.

The judge’s ruling has the potential to overturn thousands of drunk driving prosecutions and convictions locally in Dauphin County as well as across the state of Pennsylvania.

Washington Sets New Ignition Interlock Device Law

Washington alcohol ignition interlock devices are being equipped to take a photo of the person providing the breath sample. Starting Jan. 1, all alcohol ignition interlock devices are required to have a camera installed into the driver’s side of the vehicle. The measure is intended to prevent someone who may not be driving the vehicle from providing a breath sample.

The new law is in reaction to several incidents where people have tried to trick the ignition interlock system. With the driver in view of a camera, having someone else pass the breath test for them is not an option.

Washington State Patrol Sergeant Ken Denton said, “We’ll be able to refer that with a photograph, hard evidence of the person who is having his children blow into the device and they could get additional jail time as a result.”

The camera and ignition interlock device data is sent to Washington State Police. Sgt. Denton said Washington is the first state in the union to mandate the cameras for the interlock devices.

New Hampshire DUI Laws Expand to Include Prescription, Over-the-Counter, and Synthetic Drugs

New Hampshire has criminalized driving under the influence of prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, and any other chemical substances starting Jan. 1. The drugs were not previously covered under state law. New Hampshire lawmakers expanded their DUI laws in 2012, with Gov. Lynch signing the law in June.

State Police Sgt. Matthew Shapiro said that before, people could be grossly impaired by medications but could not be charged with driving under the influence. He testified in favor of the DUI bill in April 2012. He said there has been an increase in the use of prescription drugs and other new drugs, such as bath salts.

Defense attorneys complain that the new DUI laws are too far-reaching. They take issue with the fact that police officers may not be able to adequately determine whether someone is or isn’t under the influence of a certain drug.

On House Bill 1699-FN, the wordage has added the line: “prescription drug, over-the-counter drug, or any other chemical substance, natural or synthetic, which impairs a person’s ability to drive.” Before, it vaguely read, “under the influence of intoxicating liquor or any controlled drug.”

Sgt. Shapiro said, “The cases that we’re dealing with are people who are clearly impaired, they’re under the influence, they have diminished mental capacity and physical capacity as a result of taking drugs that are impairing them.”

Legislators Push for Tougher OWI Laws in Wisconsin

State Rep. Jim Ott and Sen. Alberta Darling will attempt to toughen Wisconsin’s notoriously lax OWI laws this session. Wisconsin has an ingrained drinking culture. A Centers for Disease Control (CDC) study found that 25.6% of Wisconsin residents were binge drinkers. Eau Claire, WI police officer Andrew Wise said, “Wisconsin is known for our breweries, our taverns, and our bars per capita is something pretty high compared to the rest of the nation.”

Under Wisconsin law, a first-time OWI charge is a civil violation rather than a criminal charge. Last session, measures to criminalize 1st OWI offenses and felonize 3rd offenses didn’t succeed because of noncommittal lawmakers and concerns about the costs of the new laws. Rep. Jim Ott said that last session’s costs estimates for their proposals were unrealistic. For instance, the Department of Corrections estimated that it would need to build six new alcohol treatment centers, at a cost of $71.5 million to run.

Rep. Ott and Sen. Darling want to make first-time offenders with a high BAC of .15% or more to be considered guilty of a crime. They want to require first-time offenders to appear in court even if they are only being charged with a civil violation. They want to make a third offense a felony, and to allow judges to seize the vehicles of third-time offenders. They want mandatory minimum sentences for drunk drivers who are involved in crashes resulting in injuries or death.

Gov. Scott Walker is open to toughening Wisconsin’s drunk driving laws but did not comment on the new proposals.

Bexar County DA Pushes For Texas Law which Requires Bars to Carry Non-Alcoholic Beverages

Bexar County District Attorney Susan Reed is encouraging Texas lawmakers to require bars and restaurants to carry non-alcoholic beverages. She hopes the access to non-alcoholic beverages will reduce the number of drunk driving in San Antonio. The DA’s office is going to find a sponsor for their bill for when the Texas legislature assembles next week. Assistant District Attorney Cliff Herberg said, “Is this a cure-all? No. It’s not a cure-all to driving while intoxicated, but it is something that we hope will encourage people to drink responsibly.”

Highlander bar owner Mike Specia believes non-alcoholic beverages will just collect dust, and said he feels “its just the idea of the government, you know, getting into my business, which, which I have a problem with.”

Bexar County is active in DWI legislation, and for more than a year the entire county has a 24/7 no-refusal policy. The no-refusal policy means that someone who is arrested for driving while intoxicated is required to provide a specimen of blood or breath at the request of the officer in order to investigate that person’s blood alcohol levels. A search warrant may be produced in order to obtain a person’s blood or breath sample.

Since the “No Refusal” initiative marked a year on Sept. 30, 2012, Bexar County had 6,987 DWI arrests, and blood draws were taken in 3,298 of those cases. The “No Refusal” grant for 2013 began on October 1, 2012, and to date Bexar County has already made 1,336 DWI arrests, with 614 blood draws in those cases. There has been 1 intoxication manslaughter, 9 intoxication assualts, 23 incidents of DWI with child passenger, 123 DWI 3rd offense arrests, 185 DWI 2nd offense arrests, and 993 DWI 1st offense arrests.

New Georgia DUI Laws in Effect

The New Year rang in with new DUI laws in Georgia. Effective Jan. 1, 2013, convicted DUI drivers are eligible to get limited-use permits sooner than before under the condition that they complete state requirements. Gov. Nathan Deal signed the bill, Senate Bill 236, in April 2012. It states that anyone who has a suspended license because of a 2nd DUI conviction in 5 years may apply for a limited driving permit after serving 120 days of driving suspension and showing proof of enrollment in clinical treatment. Drivers must also obtain a certificate of eligibility for an ignition interlock device and prove that they have had one installed in their vehicle and in every vehicle they operate.

The support for the new law stems from the intention of getting help for repeat drunk drivers who may need treatment, and to allow them to still have transportation access to school, work, community service, and other obligations.

Under previous law, 2nd time offenders had to wait 1 full year before applying for a driving permit. Georgia’s state chapter of MADD released a statement, saying, “We are in support of the changes, but do not think they go far enough. We need to make sure that first time offenders are interlocked so they do not repeat offend.”