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.

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.”

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.

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.

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.”

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.

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.