Washington State Lawmakers Toughen DUI Laws

Seattle, WA- Washington state lawmakers are joining the increasing number of states that are trying to toughening their DUI laws though the final legislations fell short of the measures proposed in the original draft of the legislation.

The impetus fueling the law changes came after a horrific DUI accident in March when a man who was allegedly drunk plowed his truck into a group of pedestrians, which included Dennis and Judy Schulte, their daughter-in-law Karina, and 10 day-old grandson Elias while they were crossing the street in a Seattle neighborhood.

The violence of the collision killed Dennis and Judy Schulte and hospitalized both Karina and Elias with critical injuries. The driver told police that he didn’t see the pedestrians, but a breathalyzer indicated that he was drunk; his blood alcohol content was .22.

The driver in this incident had been arrested for driving under the influence three times in the past. His arrests took place in 1990, 1991 and 1994. He kept his nose clean for over two decades but was arrested for intoxicated driving again last October. In last year’s arrest, he blew a .15, and hadn’t

When lawmakers learned the driver who killed the two elderly pedestrians was a repeat offender they quickly began to drafting legislation to make DUI laws stronger, touting the legislation as “the most aggressive, the most effective, the most ambitious,” but budgetary constraints made it necessary to dial it back, the Seattle Times reported.

Lawmakers initially wanted to require all drunken drivers to have ignition interlock devices installed in their vehicles—something the National Traffic Safety Board recommended earlier this year.  However, lawmakers redirected their focus to repeat offenders.

The newly amended legislation would require repeat offenders who are arrested again to install ignition interlock devices into their vehicles before they go to trial. Repeat offenders would also have to be booked into jail until charges are filed against them within two to three days.

Also introduced in the first draft was a 24/7 electric alcohol monitoring program for repeat DUI offenders statewide, but that also had to be changed and is now just a pilot program in two counties and three cities until the efficacy of the program can be studied.

An increase in mandatory jail sentences were also stripped and lawmakers dropped the proposal that would make a fourth DUI count as a felony, currently only fifth DUI offenses are counted as felonies.

Even though lawmakers had to strip their bill they are convinced that the amended legislation will curtail drunk driving and make the streets safer, but that remains to be seen.

Studies have shown that at least 50 percent of drivers who have been convicted of their first DUI are doomed to repeat their offense.

To the National Traffic Safety Board the most assured way to prevent repeat DUI offense is to require ignition interlock devices for a first offenders, but few states are willing to go that far and these devices are generally only required for 6 months to a year.