Gold Stars All Around For Three States Fighting Drunk Driving

drunk driving madd five star statesIn their quest to end drunk driving, Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has handed out a few gold stars along the way; stars that are given to states who are just as serious as they are about putting an end to drunk driving as MADD is.

They rank the states on a five star system, and those stars are given out if the state meets criteria including all offender ignition interlock laws, whether the state uses sobriety checkpoints, and whether they penalize drivers who refuse to submit to a breathalyzer.

Out of the states and the District of Columbia, three are at the top of MADD’s list for states who are the best at cracking down on drunk driving.

Mississippi

Mississippi made huge leaps in the fight against drunk driving when, back in 2015, it became the 22nd state to pass an all-offender ignition interlock law. If you’re a first offender in the state you’ll receive up to two days jail time, $1,000 in fines, and you’ll have to install an ignition interlock after your ninety day to one year driver’s license suspension.

Maryland

The biggest news in Maryland drunk driving law this past year was the passing of Noah’s Law. Named for Noah Leotta, a Maryland police officer who was killed when a drunk driver crashed into him at a sobriety checkpoint, it requires ignition interlocks for all offenders.

Nebraska

Nebraska made MADD’s top three states with four stars, and there are a lot of reasons why. They have no-refusal laws that require any person refusing a breathalyzer to install an ignition interlock, they have a child endangerment drunk driving provision, and they also have an ignition interlock law on record.

These three states serve stand as a great example to other one and a half or two star states on MADD’s list, and it just goes to show everyone that big changes like all offender ignition interlock laws and small changes like adding sobriety checkpoints can add up to a big difference when it comes to fighting drunk driving.

It Was A Year Of Change For Mississippi Drunk Driving Laws

mississippi drunk driving lawsWhen something isn’t working in your life, you take steps and make a change. The same thing goes for drunk driving laws: when they aren’t working and repeat drunk drivers are slipping through the cracks, it’s time to change those laws and really crack down on drunk drivers.

The state of Mississippi knows this, and they’ve made big changes to their drunk driving laws over the past year. In 2015 Mississippi became the 22nd state to pass an all offender ignition interlock law, and just this year they’ve changed jail time requirements for repeat offenders. Now if you receive a second, third, or fourth driving under the influence (DUI) charge in Mississippi you’ll spend anywhere from six months to ten years in jail. They’ve also made it mandatory that the Mississippi Department of Safety create and maintain a database to keep track of and communicate the records of offenders and their convictions.

These changes, especially the database, is targeted specifically at repeat offenders like Melandus Penson. He’s the driver in a crash that killed two young girls after wracking up a whopping seven DUI charges since 2008, some of them spaced only two months apart.

Penson was out partying on May 31st, 2015 when he crashed into a van carrying 17 year old Mattie Kruse, Rachel Lynch, and three other people. Both girls died shortly after the crash, and when police took his blood alcohol concentration (BAC) they found him to be double the legal limit at .17. Thanks to his previous DUIs, two of which happened in 2015, he was driving on a suspended license.

With no county to county communication between police and the courts, the arresting officers had no idea when they stopped him that he was a repeat offender, and because he was free to drive again, he’s taken the life of two young girls. For that crime, Penson received a sentence of 120 years that the judge reduced to 60 years.

Sometimes change only comes through tragic circumstances. The only good that’s come from this crash is that Mississippi has changed its drunk driving laws to actively stop it from happening again. It won’t bring back two innocent girls who have lost their lives, but it might prevent another crash like it from happening.

Are Scarlet Letter Plates Coming To Mississippi?

scarlet letter platesIf you’ve ever been behind someone while driving and noticed that they have yellow license plates with red lettering, you probably wondered why. Scarlet letter plates are used to mark people who are repeat driving under the influence (DUI) offenders, and they warn both the public and law enforcement that the person driving has been convicted of DUI more than once.

Scarlet letter plates aren’t used in every state. Ohio has had them since 1967, but they weren’t mandatory until January 1st, 2014 when the state decided to toughen up their DUI laws. The state of Georgia also uses different plates to identify repeat DUI offenders, but their plates use numbers on the plate instead of obvious colors.

Now the State of Mississippi has proposed a law to bring scarlet letter plates to Mississippi too. House Representative Gary Chism has drafted a new that will require repeat offenders to use the plates, but some opponents feel the law is designed to publicly shame DUI offenders.

On one hand the Scarlet letter plates will get the point across that the offender has made the mistake of drinking and driving more than once and easily identify the offender to police while on the roads, on the other the scarlet letter plates will also embarrass the person driving the vehicle to the point where it could be deemed unfair public humiliation.

Scarlet letter plates will easily identify someone as a drunk driver, but do they cut down on alcohol-related fatalities? Data from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) says it’s just as likely that people in Ohio and Georgia will die in an alcohol related car crash than any other state, so penalties like scarlet letter plates may not have any effect on someone’s decision to drink and drive.

The proposed bill is still being drafted, so it’s not set in stone that Mississippi will require scarlet letter plates for repeat offenders, but at least there’s one true way to stop repeat drunk drivers in Mississippi: ignition interlocks. Someone may not be able to identify an offender with an ignition interlock just by looking at the car, but it will stop them cold anytime they try to drink and drive.

 

 

 

Even State Senators Are Using An Interlock Device

interlock deviceAnyone can make the choice to drink and drive, and that includes women and men of all ages. It doesn’t matter what type of job you have either, so it’s funny how surprised people are when they hear about public officials being arrested for driving under the influence.

It’s true these are the people who have a direct hand in creating and passing the laws for the states they live in, and they should know first hand the potential outcome and specific penalties levied as a result of drinking and driving, but we continue to see these stories pop up in the news.

One of the latest government officials to plead no contest to a driving under the influence (DUI) charge is Sen. John Horhn of Jackson, Mississippi. For his crime he was given a 48 hour suspended jail sentence, ordered by a judge to install an interlock device in his vehicle for 120 days, and attend the Mississippi Alcohol Safety Education Program (MASEP).

The Senator will join the ranks of DUI offenders in Mississippi who are required to use an interlock device before they drive. Interlock devices became mandatory for all offenders, including first time offenders, in Mississippi on October 1st, 2013.

Sen.Horhn also joins a list of other Senators who were also arrested for drunk driving. Here are just a few from the past six months:

  • State Rep. Albert Hale from Arizona was stopped for speeding and told the arresting officer he was drinking gin in his coffee while driving. He failed several field sobriety tests and was charged with DUI, but the charge was dismissed pending crime-lab tests.
  • Sen. Bryce Marlatt of Oklahoma was charged with physical control of his vehicle after he failed field sobriety tests when found passed out behind the wheel of his car.
  • Sen. Ben Hueso of San Diego, California was arrested for DUI and will be facing two misdemeanor charges of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs and driving with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or more.

Yes, even government officials may make the choice to drink and drive. When they do, they receive penalties like fines, potential jail time, and an interlock device just like as any other DUI offender in their state, and that’s a good thing.

Interlock Devices Now Required For All Offenders In Mississippi

cocktail glassIt may take a few weeks to fully put into place, but drivers on Mississippi roads should begin to feel safer for all drivers now that a new state law for interlock devices have finally come into effect.

Signed into law in April of 2014 by Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant, the new ignition interlock laws require first time convicted drunk drivers with a BAC of .08 or greater to request an interlock instead of a license suspension. This changes the previous interlock law where an interlock device could be only requested by a judge for second DUI offenders.

Previous Mississippi DUI laws required first offenders to pay up to $1000 in fines and have their driver’s license suspended for a period of 90 days. The offender was also eligible to ask for the license suspension to be reduced if they had difficulty getting to and from work on public transportation. With the new law, they can no longer ask for that privilege, and they are required to use the interlock device for 90 days.

A second DUI conviction in Mississippi previously resulted in the offender spending 5 days up to one year in jail, paying fines up to $1500, and losing their license for a period of 2 years. Interlock devices will now be required for repeat offenders for a period of time that varies according to their offense.

This is a great step forward for the state of Mississippi, and especially for all first offenders who struggle with the 90-day license suspension. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), interlock devices will reduce the likelihood that a drinking driver will drive under the influence again, so requiring them for all offenders should work to promote safe driving practices.

Another bonus for Mississippi drivers? The state will now receive funds under the highway-safety grant program.

With these new laws in place, Mississippi just took a giant leap forward for highway safety. For more information on Mississippi interlock devices, visit Guardian Interlock’s Mississippi State page.

Mississippi Passes All Offender Ignition Interlock Law

ignition interlockThe state of Mississippi just took another step forward in cracking down on drivers who choose to drive under the influence (DUI). A new DUI ignition interlock law was passed on Tuesday, July 1st requiring all offenders, including first offenders, to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicles. Although the law went into effect last week, offenders will have time to prepare because the ignition interlock isn’t required to be installed until October 1st.

The crackdown on drinking drivers can’t come a moment too soon for Mississippi. With 203 DUI arrests over the busy holiday weekend alone, law enforcement have their hands full keeping the roads safe. Of 120 crashes during the long weekend, 5 of those were alcohol-related and 7 of those crashes were fatal. There were also 58 people injured in crashes.

In addition to up to 48 hours of jail time, fines up to $1000, and attendance at a driver’s education program, these first time offenders will now be required to use an ignition interlock during their license suspension for at least 90 days. If they have repeat DUI convictions, they’ll need to use the ignition interlock for a period of one year.

Although this law has been in the works since 2013, it was only passed this year after changes were made to the original law. Exceptions were removed and the wording was altered to include all drunk drivers who want to drive during their license suspension. The bonus for Mississippi is that, because of the new law, they can apply for federal funding via a new highway safety program.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has come out in support of the law and feels it will deter drivers from driving under the influence. Mississippi now joins 22 states with an all-offender ignition interlock law.

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