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.

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.”

“Driving High” Marijuana DUI Law in Washington

Marijuana will be legal in the state of Washington starting on December 6, but drivers need to be aware that the ballot initiative that legalized it also included a new DUI Standard which may make driving riskier for regular users than the previous law did.

Under Washington law, adults (persons 21 years and old) may possess up to an ounce of processed marijuana, 16 ounces of marijuana-infused product (solid form), or 72 ounces of marijuana infused liquid product.

The DUI standard and physical control laws have set the THC level for intoxication at 5 nanograms per milliliter of blood. This has been deemed the level at which motor skills are impaired to the point that it is too dangerous for a person to operate a motor vehicle, and is similar to the standard for alcohol which is 0.08.

A driver’s THC must be tested through a blood test. The law that allows for a blood draw on a driver has changed, they are referred to as Implied Consent laws, and now the law allows for blood tests if the driver is suspected of being under the influence of marijuana.

The DUI standard for persons under age 21 is zero tolerance. Any driver under the age of 21 who is suspected of being under the influence of marijuana, and who subsequently tests for any amount of marijuana in their system, will be charged with DUI.

Washington State Patrol Spokeman Bob Calkins said, “Regardless of whether this person has been a regular user of marijuana, may have a routine THC level in his blood of this point or that point, if he’s driving OK, he’s probably not going to come to our attention. And if he’s driving badly, he probably is going to come to our attention.”

Part V of the initiative, the section that establishes the per se DUI limit of THC at 5ng/mL, has raised concern amongst medical marijuana advocates who say the new DUI law will lead to convictions for those who use marijuana to treat their ailments. The metabolite 11-COOH-THC, which is the secondary metabolite in marijuana that forms after consumption of cannabis and is also known as the metabolite that can remain in a person’s system for days to weeks, is explicitly excluded for from consideration for a DUI charge.

11-OH-THC is the active metabolite of THC. If both 11-OH-THC and 11-COOH-THC are present then motor impairment may still be present.

Montana DUI Laws Allow for Lenient Sentence for Man’s 13th DUI

Judge Susan Watters was required by Montana’s DUI sentencing laws to give a seemingly lenient sentence to a man who has been arrested for drunk driving a dozen times. The case of William Dean Grussing brought light to what the prosecutor referred to as a “gaping hole” in a statute that is supposed to punish drunk drivers. According to the Montana DUI laws, a maximum sentence of 5 years can be imposed for a felony DUI conviction if the defendant previously attended a treatment program while in jail for a DUI offense. However, as in Grussing’s case, if a defendant did not participate in a treatment program they can only be sentenced to a standard term of 13 months followed by a maximum probation of 5 years.

Judge Susan Watters said, “It seems counter-intuitive to me that someone who completes treatment could get five years, but someone who doesn’t gets a more lenient sentence. That doesn’t make sense to me, and I would encourage the Legislature to take a look at that provision.”

Grussing was charged with his 12th DUI in June 2011. While that case was pending, Grussing was arrested for DUI again in June 2012 and was charged with his 13th DUI.

Grussing could have been required to pay a $5,000 fine for felony DUI, which is Montana’s maximum fine. Grussing was ordered to pay $3,000 in fines. Grussing spoke at his sentencing hearing, and said he had been sober for 9 1/2 years before last year’s arrest.

Montana has been getting tougher on DUI laws in other ways. House Bill 14, which changes the look-back period for DUI offenses from five-years to ten-years, was passed in 2011. This means that any DUI on a person’s record can be considered if they re-offend within a ten-year period. Previously, the courts could only consider drunk driving offenses that occurred within the last five years.

Not all lawmakers were fond of this new law, especially Republican Alan Hale, who gave a speech opposing HB14 and the toughening of all DUI laws. He said, “These DUI laws are not doing our small businesses in our state any good at all. They are destroying them. They are destroying a way of life that has been in Montana for years and years. These taverns and bars in these smaller communities connect people together. They are the center of the communities. I’ll guarantee you there’s only two ways to get there: either you hitchhike, or you drive, and I promise you they’re not going to hitchhike.”

Illinois DUI Law, DUI Convictions to Fund DUI Prevention

Illinois’ history of DUI legislation follows the course of most states, from changing the limit for driving impairment to .08% and enacting Child Endangerment Laws that enhances penalties for DUI drivers with minors in their vehicles. DUI arrests are going up, laws are becoming more fine-tuned and stricter, and overall the nation’s traffic fatalities are going down. The most recent changes to Illinois law has to do with how to fund DUI prevention programs, and a new law is allowing funds from DUI convictions to be funneled toward those programs. Here is an overview of the highlights of Illinois’ change in drunk driving legislation over the years:

BAC Changes Over the Years

In 1958, Illinois established the illegal BAC limit as .15%, and just nine years later in 1967 lowered the state’s illegal limit down to .10%. It would be 30 more years before Illinois changed the illegal BAC limit to .08%.

Many New DUI Laws in the last ten years

The 2000s saw the most changes to Illinois drunk driving legislation, with at least 6 changes made to Illinois DUI law in just the last year. Effective January 1, 2012, a driver arrested for DUI could have their vehicle impounded and be charged administrative fees for that vehicle’s impoundment. The vehicle could be handled by the municipality in any way it saw fit if the vehicle went unclaimed.

Another recent DUI law passed in 2012 related to school bus drivers. The employers of school bus drivers may request a blood or alcohol test if there is reasonable suspicion that the employee may be under the influence.

Tougher DUI Penalties

Milestones in Illinois DUI law include the establishment of the Zero Tolerance Policy, passed in January 1995, which states that any driver under age 21 with any trace of alcohol or drugs in their system will automatically lose their driving privileges. In January 1993, Illinois established the Child Endangerment Law, which set tougher penalties for drivers convicted of DUI who had a passenger 16 or younger in the vehicle.

In January 1986, the Crime Victims Bill of Rights was expanded to include DUI victims, and that same year the Statutory Summary Suspension Program was put into place which allowed for the automatic suspension of a person’s driver’s license if they refused to submit to or failed a chemical test after a DUI arrest.

Most Recent and Far-Reaching DUI Legislation

In January 2004, Illinois passed a law which made it illegal for anyone to operate a watercraft or snowmobile while under the influence. Since January 2009, the state of Illinois has required even first-time DUI offenders to use a breath alcohol ignition interlock device (BAIID) and any vehicle they drive must also be equipped with a BAIID.

In August 22, 2012, House Bill 5021 was signed, which allows funds received from DUI convictions to go to local law enforcement agencies for alcohol-related crime prevention and enforcement, sparking a debate about whether this will create a financial incentive for police to stop drivers in cases that could have questionable probable cause.

Georgia Bill Allows for Greater Driving Privileges with Ignition Interlock Device

Georgia has been overdue for DUI law reform, and in April the State Senate expanded SB 236, an Act which allows repeat DUI offenders to have more flexibility in their driving privileges.

Georgia suspended the licenses of two-time DUI offenders for 12 months, but the bill has reduced that to a minimum of 4 months. If convicted within a 5-year period, offenders can obtain a limited driving permit if they meet all requirements, including the installation of an ignition interlock device on their vehicle for at least 8 months.

The new law will allow offenders to drive to and from their place of employment, school, or substance abuse treatment facility, and will allow for greater autonomy while completing their probation. The court may exempt the offender from the requirements of the ignition interlock device limited driving permit if the court can determine that the requirements would put undue financial hardship on the offender.