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.

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.”

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.”

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.”