Northern California lawmaker proposes stricter DUI penalties for repeat DUI offenders

Current California law gives persons convicted of a DUI an option to install an instrument that prevents their vehicles from operating if the driver is drunk. If one state senator has his way, though, those devices will go from “optional,” to “mandatory,” the San Jose Mercury News reported.
State Sen. Jerry Hill, of San Mateo, told the Mercury News, by telephone, that, currently, the “law is so in favor of repeat DUI offenders.” Hill pointed to the most recent statewide statistics regarding DUIs. In 2009, more than one-quarter of all DUI convictions (43,432 of 161,074) involved non-first-time offenders, according to Hill’s office.dui dwi
Hill called the numbers “staggering.” “It makes no sense … that you can have eight or nine DUIs and you can still get a valid driver’s license,” Hill said at a press conference. “It’s time to do something about that.”
So, the senator is authoring a law to stiffen DUI penalties. Hill’s new bill, introduced in late December, would require persons convicted of a second DUI to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicles and use the devices for one year before becoming eligible for a restoration of full driving privileges. A third DUI would require two years’ use of the device; a fourth would lead to a three year period.
Currently, the law requires two-time offenders to complete an 18-month DUI course, with third-time offenders required to attend a 30-month class. Additionally, the current law permits, as an option, a repeat DUI offender to install an ignition interlock device in his/her vehicle, in exchange for shortening the period of the driver’s license suspension of revocation period. Hill’s office told NBC Bay Area that only about one-fifth of those eligible to use the devices under the current law select that option.
The devices operate by attaching to the vehicles ignition. The device requires the driver to blow into it and, only after the device receives a breath sample with a blood-alcohol level below a pre-programmed limit, will it permit the vehicle’s engine to start.
The new bill would also force the convicted person to bear the expense of the device. Initial installation typically costs between $50 and $200, with monthly fees ranging from $50 to $100, according to the senator’s office.  The bill contains some provision mandating that the device company pick up some of the costs for low-income individuals.
Donald Bartell, the president of the California DUI Lawyers Association, told the Mercury News that, although he had not seen the bill, he was concerned. Bartell pointed to the expense of the devices and potential for excessive burden to non-offenders who share the offenders who share use of the offender’s vehicle.
Bartell also voiced concern that the bill’s punitive measures potentially outweighed the offenders’ crimes. “We don’t want people to drink and drive, but the question is, ‘What is the appropriate punishment?’” he told the newspaper.
Incentivizing citizens not to drink and drink is a worthwhile goal, but not to the point that the penalties imposed are disproportionate to the crime charged. This is the challenge the California legislature will have to address in the weeks ahead. If you are arrested on a DUI charge, it is important to consult a capable Santa Rosa DUI attorney. Our Santa Rosa DUI attorneys are keenly knowledgeable when it comes to handling all types of DUI-related cases and can help you assess your options and select the best one for your situation. Contact our Santa Rosa Office at 707-576-7175 to arrange for a free and confidential DUI consultation.


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