This past Tuesday, lawmakers in Olympia Washington had an unofficial “DUI Policy Day” to review and discuss House Bills 2344, 2506, 2507, 2503,and 2728. The bills will provide clarity to unclear current DUI laws and will also stiffen penalties for repeat DUI offenders.
House Judiciary Committee chairman, Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland lead the discussion on bills. Bill 2344 became a fiery debate. 2344 would require the Department of Licensing to mail out reminders of installation of an ignition interlock device to individuals who have been convicted of a DUI. The ignition interlock device prevents drunk driving by requiring the driver to blow into a breathalyzer before their car will start. Additionally, the bill stated that if an individual bought a new car to circumvent placing an ignition interlock device into their car they would be charged with a gross misdemeanor. Republican Chad Magendanz, supporter and sponsor of Bill 2344, said it’s “absolutely clear,” this bill will prevent accidents and will detour individuals from buying a new car to escape placement of an ignition interlock device into their current car. DUI defense attorneys and other opponents of 2344 exclaimed the bill was vague and way too costly at a projected 6 million to print and send ignition interlock reminders. Goodman stated the cost “might put the bill in jeopardy.”
Bill 2506 requires Class C DUI felonies to be upgraded to Class B felonies. The change in class would not increase sentencing ranges but would enhance post prison supervision on individuals that have an extensive criminal history. Amy Freidheim, a King County prosecutor, said this bill would only affect about a half-dozen people in King County over the past seven years. Thus, bill 2506 would change post-jail conditions for approximately one person in King County each year.
Bill 2507 enhances penalties for individuals that have committed at least two DUI related vehicular homicides. For the very very small number of individuals that fall into this category, they would have substantial increased jail time.
Bills 2503 and 2728 are primary technical changes, including or excluding wording. However, the bills do include the ability for law enforcement to conduct blood draws from individuals that contest taking the alcohol breath tests. Law enforcement would no longer require a warrant for the blood draw.
In addition to these 5 bills, Roger Goodman brought up several other DUI crack down ideas which included random DUI checkpoints. Most of the ideas were quickly thrown out due to cost or overall ineffectiveness. Marijuana DUI discussions were also heard. Activists were voicing their disagreement with I-502 making it a crime to drive with five nanograms of THC (the active component in marijuana) in an individuals blood stream. Their thoughts were five nanaograms was too low of a limit and that many law-abiding medical marijuana users have more than that in their bloodstreams and still physically and mentally function at levels safe enough to operate a car.
Written by S.O