Is a DWI crackdown on the horizon?

Brought to you by Michael Barras
There have been many news stories about DWI incidents recently.  States are slowly being petitioned for tougher laws for repeat offenders.

At the end of August, a husband and his wife, Zachary and Aileen Smith, were driving in New Mexico to a baby shower, when they were hit by a drunk driver.  They were able to avoid a head on collision by driving into a bank, however the passenger side of the car was still crushed.  The wife, in the passenger seat, was seven months pregnant.  Upon impact, her water broke and was rushed to the hospital.  During surgery, the baby was delivered and did not survive.  After the crash, they learned that the man had four previous DUIs and his license was currently suspended.

Since this accident, Mr. and Mrs. Smith have been working to get more stringent laws for DUI enforcement.  They learned that an individual needs seven DWI offenses in New Mexico before the state takes major action.  The Smith’s have created a petition to get this law changed.  The family is from Colorado, a state that has tougher DWI laws, like jail time, even for first-time offenders.  The Smiths are working with the Governor of New Mexico to get tougher laws.

There is another recent feature case in South Dakota where a 60-year old received two years in jail for his 16th DUI offense.  Over a 35 year drinking and driving record, eleven of those sixteen offenses were felony charges.  South Dakota places a 10-year limit on past DUI charges that can be used during current penalty.  The state also allows for a maximum 2 years in jail for any DUI charge.  Anti-drunk driving activists are trying to get these laws changed.

Activists groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) are trying to get states to make a variety of changes.  They would like states to install locking devices on the cars of people convicted of drunk driving.  They say that this will save lives because suspended licenses do not prevent people from driving.  This has come about because of these recent news stories.  In the near future, we may see prosecutors pushing harsher punishments in DUI cases.

There are some states with a history of having the strictest DUI punishment: Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, Iowa and Tennessee.  Some of these states require an ignition lock to be placed in the car or mandatory jail time for a first time offense.  There are also some states who might come under fire of MADD and other activists: Michigan, Minnesota, Oregon, Rhode Island and Wyoming.  Most of these states give the reason that DUI accidents simply happen less there.  Other states have different standards when it comes to BAC based on your gender, weight and height.  With more news stories, it is expected to see an outcry from the public.

For those of you in Louisiana, there are some DUI statistics that you should know.  There are about 9,000 DUI arrests every year, with about 400 of them being fatal accidents.  MADD is pushing for all states to add an ignition lock to offenders’ cars.  This means that the driver would have to blow into a breathalyzer before the car would start.  If the reading were higher than the legal limit, the car would not start.  Louisiana has this law in effect currently for first time offenders, which is stricter than most states.  New or amended laws might be on the horizon in Louisiana and countrywide.