License Suspension for DUI?
It Just. Doesn’t. Work.

A Colorado study confirms the bad news: license suspension does not work as a punishment for DUI. The number of motorists cited for drunken driving who are driving without a valid license is an astonishing one in four.

license suspension doesn't work for duiRocky Mountain PBS I-News and 9News analyzed electronic court records of more than 45,000 DUIs issued in Colorado from April 2012 through April 2014. Almost 11,000 of that group should not have been driving, due to a license that was suspended, restricted or revoked. That’s an average of 15 a day.

It’s common to hear well-intentioned people demand that drunk drivers lose their license altogether. The problem is, a license is just a piece of paper. People who drink and drive often ignore suspended or revoked licenses. After a week or a month of suspension, they decide that the inconvenience of not driving outweighs the consequences of being caught without a license – even that of being caught driving impaired without a license.

Moreover, these people are dangerous. Driving impaired, and often uninsured, they pose a risk to everyone on the road.

There is hope of change. At the beginning of 2014 Colorado passed a law that allows first-time DUI offenders to regain their license with the use of an ignition interlock, a device which presents a common-sense solution to the ignition interlocks save livesproblem. An ignition interlock prevents a car from starting if the driver’s breath alcohol concentration (BAC) is above a preset level. Usually a camera records the breath test, so that the offender cannot cheat. Repeat tests are given during a typical journey so that the driver can’t drink after starting the car.

The use of ignition interlocks appears counterintuitive to those who feel that license suspension is a more appropriate punishment for drunken driving. And perhaps it would be – if a lack of license really kept impaired drivers off the roads. But the Colorado study shows that it doesn’t. As long as people ignore DUI laws and license suspensions, ignition interlocks are the way to go.

How to Be Arrested for DUI – Without Even Driving

You’ve had too much to drink, and you know it is inadvisable to get behind the wheel. But the bar is closing down, your designated driver failed to show up, and a taxi costs too much. So what do you do?

drunk driverYou get into your car and have a nap, hoping that you will be sober enough to drive in a couple of hours. While you are sleeping, a policeman walks up and knocks on your window. Two minutes later, you are in handcuffs.

What happened?

Something called Physical Control. The fact is, you do not have to be driving to be arrested for a DUI. You just need to be in the driver’s seat of a car and be in possession of the keys. To the law in most states, this means you are in physical control of the car, even though you are not driving. Your keys do not even have to be in the ignition.dui-ends-in-handcuffs

Generally Physical Control violations are misdemeanors, and they do carry penalties including fines and jail time, though usually not as severe as those for moving DUI violations. Physical Control is an offense worth noting, as many drinkers assume that they are abiding by the law when they sit in their cars after a night of drinking without turning on the ignition.

If you think this is a harsh law, you are not alone. Many states have “safe harbor” laws to allow for the driver’s good intentions. If you are safely off the roadway, with the keys somewhere inaccessible (such as the trunk), then courts in some states will look kindly on you.

The laws on Physical Control are just one more factor that drivers should take into consideration when they step out for a drink. It isn’t enough not to be driving while impaired – make sure you’re nowhere near your car.

MADD Urges More Support for DUI Victim Rights

Capital BuildingThis week is National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. While one might think that victims have sufficient rights in the US, the truth is that victims still have fewer rights than criminal offenders. The rights of the criminal offenders are protected by the U.S. Constitution. The rights of victims are not. Granted, victim rights laws today are better than they were. In the past, victims were typically denied access to basic information about their offenders’ court cases and even excluded from the judicial process altogether. They did not have to be notified of court proceedings or of the arrest or release of a defendant, they had no right to attend the trial or other proceedings, and they had no right to make a statement to the court at sentencing or at other hearings. In 1981, a group of advocates created the first National Crime Victims’ Rights Week. This was to call attention to the victims and their surviving family members. President Reagan created a President’s Task Force on Victims of Crime to assess the situation. They reported a system that was focused on the offender and indifferent to the victim. As a result, in 1984, the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) legislation was passed. This was to providing funding for support of victims and to help change the criminal justice system. The report also prompted each state to add victim’s rights language to its constitution. However, currently the US Constitution contains no Victims’ Rights language, whereas there are 23 fundamental rights for someone accused of a crime. Numerous organizations including the National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA) and Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) support such an amendment. A Victims’ Rights Amendment (VRA) was put forward in April of 2013. This amendment delineates rights such as notification of, guaranteed admission to, and the right to speak during the course of legal proceedings including pre-trial release, plea bargains, sentencing and parole. VRA also requires that courts consider victims’ safety when defendants are considered for conditional release. The VRA has raised many concerns. Advocates point to the need to bolster victims’ rights as current statutes are often not enforced. Opponents state that the amendment does not uphold the fundamental ideal of innocence until proven guilty and due process. Time will tell how legislators will craft this amendment and whether it will make it on the ballot in November.

Should Wisconsin DUI Penalties Be Stronger?

Police officer writing ticketWisconsin is the only U.S. state that does not consider a first-time DUI offense a crime. Other states require jail time, counseling, and even an in-car breathalyzer called an ignition interlock to start an offender’s vehicle. Wisconsin simply hands out a ticket.

Yet Wisconsin is infamous for its consumption of alcohol. They claim to be the number 1 binge drinkers in the country. They also have the highest percentage of drinkers per capita. Unfortunately, they also admit to having the most number of drivers under the influence on their roads.

In 2012, Wisconsin had 200 drunk driving fatalities; much higher than the national average. The Wisconsin legislature met just after St. Patrick’s Day to pass a bill clarify the current drunk driving penalties. They required penalties for those drunken drivers who injure someone. They also required prison time of at least three years for those offenders on their seventh, eighth, or ninth conviction.

Yet they did not expand or strengthen the law to address first time offenders or increase penalties for other repeat offenders. The topic is often debated. One concern is the cost of prosecuting. A state analysis concluded last year that making a third drunken-driving conviction a felony would add millions to court and correction costs.

Jim Ott, R-Mequon, has offered up numerous legislative bills to toughen penalties. “We continue to have so many outrageous crashes in Wisconsin,” Ott told The Associated Press in 2012. “Do we just sit back and say ‘we have to live with this’’ or are we going to try and do something?”

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has been lobbying to bring Wisconsin DUI penalties in line with most other states. Programs that require an ignition interlock device have proven successful in other states. In New Mexico, for instance, DUI fatalities have been reduced by 35% since the state has required that all DUI offenders use an interlock device.

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