May 13, 2011
A new law may soon make it harder for drunk drivers to get behind the wheel. The legislature passed a bill Thursday which aims to cut down on DUI offenders.
Supporters say the bill is a huge step forward in cracking down on drunk driving. However, even with harsher penalties, some say the bill still doesn't go far enough.
The bill comes in part from recommendations from the Kansas DUI Commission. The commission was formed after a crash in October of 2008, where a Wichita woman and her 4-year-old daughter were walking to school when a drunk driver hit and killed them. Now, the commission is hoping to put more effective penalties for offenders in place.
"I think each step they take helps us take drunk drivers off the road and keep them off the road," said Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper Gary Warner.
The bill includes requiring first time offenders to pass a breathalyzer before starting their cars. It mandates they use an interlock ignition device for at least six months.
"I think that's going to be a very positive thing to reduce the recurrence of DUI activity," said Warner.
The bill also creates a repository, or database for drunk driving offenders so past convictions aren't overlooked.
"I think that will help us do our job better and maybe expedite the process getting the case to trial," said Warner.
"I don't have a problem with the repository because I really view it as an equal protection guarantee," said DUI Defense Attorney John Stang.
But one part of the bill creating some controversy would allow five-time offenders to get their license back, using a permanent interlock device in their cars. Right now, their license is revoked for good after their fifth offense.
"I think it's beneficial in that stance because people do need to drive to survive," said Stang.
"The jury's still kind of out on that one," said Warner.
Supporters of the provision say many offenders drive even with a revoked license, so by mandating an interlock device, it will help insure they are not under the influence.
The House and Senate passed the bill unanimously, now it goes to the Governor for final approval.
People who drive drunk will face stiffer penalties and will be required to use interlock devices on their vehicles under a bill approved by the Kansas Legislature.
The bill passed both chambers with unanimous votes Thursday and
awaits Gov. Sam Brownback's signature.
The bill also will create a central repository to help law
enforcement keep better records of repeat DUI offenders.
Some representatives raised concerns that the bill removes a
requirement that drivers permanently lose their licenses for five
or more DUI convictions. But supporters say people drive drunk with
or without a license.
The central repository will address concerns that prosecutors
often don't know if a driver has multiple DUI convictions. That has
led to some offenders not being charged with the right offenses or
getting light sentences.