Colorado Drunk Driving Penalties May Include Scarlet Letter Plates

Colorado drunk drivingThe idea of public shaming to fight back against drunk driving is nothing new. Some states publicize mug shots of their drunk drivers in the newspaper and on the web. Other states add a dose of shame to their DUI penalties. That could soon be the case for Colorado drunk driving laws.

The Colorado State Patrol set up a poll online recently, the purpose of which was to ask the public how they felt about scarlet letter plates. These plates have a bright red-on-yellow design and they are one way to immediately alert the public that the person in the vehicle is a convicted drunk driver.

The poll specifically asked, “Would you, personally, support a “scarlet letter” indicator on the license plate of a convicted drunk driver?” By the time the poll closed there were 350 people who had voted, and the majority supported scarlet letter plates for drunk drivers. The only division was whether or not they supported them for first time offenders.

40 percent of the respondents said that they believed first offenders convicted of Colorado drunk driving should be required to use the plates, but 33 percent thought only repeat offenders should have to put the plates on their vehicle.

There were 20 percent of people who believed that the scarlet letter plates should not be used at all, but that minority may not know these plates are already in use in other states. Ohio has been using scarlet letter plates since 1967, but they’ve only been mandatory for drunk drivers since 2014.

Just because they put up a poll doesn’t mean the scarlet letter plates will become part of Colorado drunk driving law, but if Ohio is any indication, there’s definitely no harm in trying. If a little shame works to prevent someone from drunk driving, why wouldn’t you try?

Washington DUI Law Changes To Add DUI-E

Washington DUIThere’s something new in the world of Washington DUI law, and the new addition will mean people who drive with a cellphone in their hand could receive harsh new penalties.

It’s common knowledge that a Washington DUI means driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, but Washington State Patrol have now started to enforce a new type of DUI designation: DUI-E, also known as driving under the influence of electronics.

It’s an interesting name for a common problem; how best to stop drivers from driving while distracted by their cell phones when they’re behind wheel. Washington State Governor Jay Inslee thinks the DUI-E name is catchy enough to get attention and it suits the crime. He’s vowed to reduce “drunk electronic driving” by cracking down on anyone police catch in the act.

When the DUI-E bill was proposed the Governor had to veto a provision that would have delayed the law from taking effect for one full year. He wanted it in place asap, and because of that there’s a limited warning period for drivers that will only last until the end of January. Once that warning has passed, increased fines will kick in for anyone caught with a cellphone in hand.

Those fines include a $136 charge for anyone stopped for a first DUI-E and $234 for anyone stopped for a second DUI-E within five years. That might not seem like that stiff of a fine, but keep in mind these violations will also be reported to your insurance company too. That could mean an increase in insurance rates.

There’s also a designation for “Dangerously Distracted,” and that’s defined as any person who commits a traffic offense while engaged in any activity that interferes with the safe operation of their motor vehicle. If someone from Washington state drives while dangerously distracted, they will receive an another $99 fine.

In Washington State the death rate from distracted driving rose by 32 percent from 2014 to 2015, so lawmakers felt this was the solution. Will other states fight back against distracted driving by getting on board with the same type of law?

New Mexico Implied Consent Laws Head To Supreme Court

New Mexico implied consent lawsNew Mexico implied consent laws, like other state implied consent laws, are usually pretty clear: if police suspect you of drinking and driving, they have the right to ask you to submit to a breathalyzer. But a recent Albuquerque, New Mexico case has changed the way New Mexico implied consent laws can be used, and they had to go all the way to the state Supreme Court to do it.

According to New Mexico implied consent law, the police have the power to force you to take a breathalyzer test. If you refuse, they can charge you for that refusal or ask you to submit to a chemical test. When one woman arrived at a DWI checkpoint in 2011, she did submit to two breathalyzer tests. Her score on both tests was 0.04.

The arresting officer suspected she was high on drugs, so he asked her to submit to a blood test too. She refused the blood draw, and the officer charged her with both DWI and refusal to submit. When she went to court she appealed the refusal to submit charge.

While she was waiting, the U.S. Supreme Court made a ruling that was relevant to her case. The ruling stated that anyone arrested for DWI can be punished for refusing to submit to a breath test, but they can’t be punished for refusing to submit to a blood test unless the police officer has a warrant or the driver has injured or killed someone.

Because there was no warrant on record and the offender hasn’t injured someone, the New Mexico Court of Appeals overturned her charge. That’s when the state prosecutors appealed to the Supreme Court, but that didn’t change the outcome: the Supreme Court agreed with the court of appeals.

New Mexico implied consent law is there to protect drivers in the state, and it still stands despite the Supreme Court ruling about requesting blood work. There’s one easy way to avoid the worry of whether or not you’d submit to a breathalyzer test, and that’s to always drive sober.

California Ignition Interlock Devices Hard At Work In Tulare County

California ignition interlockLong before lawmakers voted to bring in a new California ignition interlock law, there was a pilot program running in certain counties. One of those counties, Tulare, was given a spot in that pilot program for one very good reason: out of all counties in California, Tulare has the highest recidivism rate for drunk drivers.

That means that drunk drivers in Tulare County are much more likely to become repeat offenders. Along with the California ignition interlock law requiring all offenders, including first offenders, to install and use an ignition interlock device, the state of California is offering Tulare another helping hand.

The county’s Probation department has just received a grant worth over $160,000 from the California Office of Traffic Safety. It’s specifically designated to help Tulare County fight back against their repeat drunk drivers by ensuring these offenders will comply with all court orders.

Some of the areas of focus for Tulare County Probation will be:

A hot sheet for police

A hot sheet will be used in Tulare County so all police and traffic officers will know which repeat offenders to look out for and whether or not these drivers already have a suspended license because of a California DUI conviction.

Ensure repeat offenders comply with their probation

Despite driver’s license suspensions, some drunk drivers will continue to drive. With the grant money they receive, Tulare County probation will assign two full time probation officers to monitor repeat offenders so they comply with their probation terms.

Random drug and alcohol testing

An ignition interlock will test a driver’s blood alcohol level. If that driver has alcohol in his or her system, the vehicle won’t start. In addition to requiring these repeat drunk drivers to comply with the current California ignition interlock pilot program, Tulare County will also perform random drug and alcohol testing.

Tulare County has taken these steps to crack down on their drunk drivers. Between the California ignition interlock pilot program, the upcoming new ignition interlock law, and this large grant, the county should start seeing a real change in their drunk driving rates.

When Will Lawmakers Pass A Florida Ignition Interlock Bill?

Florida ignition interlock lawWhy would a state pass up an opportunity to crack down on their drunk driving problem? When you consider how significant Florida’s drunk driving problem is, it’s surprising that lawmakers just let the Florida ignition interlock bill die before it could make it to the Governor’s desk.

Both MADD and police stood in support of an update to the Florida ignition interlock laws, and the proposed bill was for the stiffest interlock penalty you can pass: an all offender ignition interlock law. An interlock is a device that will stop any drunk driving offender from starting their vehicle when that person has been drinking. Having an all offender law means that everyone, first offenders included, would be required to use the device for a period of time.

There’s a major difference between the Florida ignition interlock law they have in place and  what an offender ignition interlock law would bring to the table. Right now if you’re stopped for drunk driving in Florida and it’s your first offense you will only be required to use an interlock if you meet one of two conditions:  if you’re blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.15 or higher or if you have a minor under the age of 18 in your vehicle at the time of arrest. You’ll also only be required to use an interlock for six months.

Just how badly is a Florida ignition interlock bill needed? One repeat drunk driver from Marion County, Florida provides the perfect example of what’s going on in the state. She was arrested for DUI four years ago and when she was convicted based on a near lethal BAC of .410, she told the judge that she was going to get help so it didn’t happen again.

Just this year she drove drunk again, and this time, just like many other repeat drunk drivers, she killed someone. Once again her BAC at the time of arrest was .402, and now she’s facing DUI manslaughter charges.

If Florida had an all offender interlock law four years ago, this offender would have driven with an interlock and may not have decided to drive drunk again. There’s also no way of knowing how many times she’s been driving drunk in those four years, and that’s why it’s important to use interlocks the first time someone is arrested.

Let’s hope the Florida ignition interlock bill will live again, and the state will decide to pass this life saving law.

Maryland Ignition Interlock Law Is Already One Year Old

Maryland ignition interlock law,It’s never easy for a state to change its drunk driving laws or drunk driving penalties, and Maryland is the perfect example of how difficult it can be. There was a long battle fought to bring the Maryland ignition interlock proposal from a new bill to a drunk driving law signed by the Governor.

Just one year ago the Maryland ignition interlock law, also known as Noah’s Law, become official in the state. Named for Officer Noah Leotta, the all offender law requires all drunk drivers, including first offenders, to install an ignition interlock in any vehicle they own. It was named for Leotta after he was killed on the side of a highway by a drunk driver while working at a DUI checkpoint.

Now that Noah’s Law has been active for a year, there’s data to show how it is saving lives in Maryland. Thanks to the Maryland ignition interlock law, use of ignition interlock devices have gone up by 10 percent. For first time offenders that number is even higher: they’ve seen a 25 percent increase in first offenders using an interlock.

Ignition interlocks also stopped 2,000 people who were drunk and attempting to drive, so there’s no question that the devices are hard at work in Maryland. But just like any state with a new all offender law, Maryland is still experiencing its fair share of drunk drivers.

According a single arrest report printed in a local newspaper recently, police arrested 23 drunk drivers while out on patrol.  That’s a lot for a single time period. The good news is that Noah’s law means these drunk drivers will be prevented from driving thanks to an ignition interlock.

It’s a tragedy that Officer Leotta was struck and killed, and even more tragic that he was out stopping drunk drivers when the crash happened. But thanks to the Maryland ignition interlock law, his legacy will live on and lives will be saved in the state.

Can You Get Around The Implied Consent Law In Georgia?

implied consent lawMost states have an implied consent law. That law means that, by accepting a driver’s license in your state, you agree to comply with police if they suspect you of drunk driving. This compliance may also mean you submit to a breathalyzer test upon request, and if you don’t, you could be charged for that refusal.

Although the implied consent law still stands, the Supreme Court of Georgia has recently made a new ruling on submitting to breathalyzers in the state — a person’s refusal to submit to a breathalyzer test can no longer be used as evidence again them in criminal court cases.

Now if a police officer pulls you over and suspects you of drunk driving in Georgia, he or she must now provide you with an implied consent warning. The warning instructs you of what implied consent law is and what will happen to you if you refuse.

Police may then ask you to submit to a breathalyzer. Because the breathalyzer is a voluntary test, you are able to refuse before and after arrest and the refusal cannot be held against you in a criminal court case.

The ruling came because the Supreme Court Justices of Georgia believed taking a breathalyzer test is comparative to making self-incriminating statements, and you shouldn’t be penalized within the criminal court system for the refusal.

Drunk driving offenders in Georgia may consider this to be good news, but this ruling isn’t a get-out-of-DUI-free card. Even if it can’t be held against you in a criminal court, refusing the breathalyzer can still end with you receiving the civil penalty of a one year driver’s license suspension. If you refuse the breathalyzer more than once, you could lose your driver’s license for three years.

Any way you look at it, refusing the breathalyzer doesn’t end in winning situation for the driver. Neither does drunk driving, so if you’d like to avoid situations where you’re asked to submit to a blood alcohol check, just don’t drink and drive.

29 Year Jail Sentence For Florida Drunk Driving Crash

Florida drunk driving crashHow much jail time is enough for causing a Florida drunk driving crash? If one man from Jupiter, Florida is any indication, it’s a lot longer than you might think.

A man by the name of Admerson Cleber Eugenio Vicente-Vicente was driving in Pompano Beach in 2015. He was drunk, with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.170, and he drove straight into two sisters who were heading to their mother’s house. Both died from their injuries.

This is a Florida drunk driving crash that shouldn’t have happened, and that’s because this offender shouldn’t have been driving, period. He was a repeat offender charged with DUI in 2010. Caught driving with a suspended driver’s license twice since that time, his last conviction resulted in his driver’s license being revoked for five years.

Now he’ll be spending 29 years in prison for killing two sisters, and he should count himself fortunate — he could have received 15 years per victim, and the judge also decided to give him credit for time served.

It’s clear from this case that the statistics on driver’s license suspension are accurate. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has shared data showing 50 to 70% of drunk drivers will continue to drive on a suspended license, and when they do, this is can happen.

This Florida drunk driving crash also shows just how much Florida needs an all offender ignition interlock law. An all offender ignition interlock law — requiring ignition interlocks for first offenders with a BAC of .08 or higher, is a requirement in 30 states right now. Why doesn’t Florida, a state with a serious drunk driving problem and numerous drunk driving crashes each year, have an all offender law yet?

It’s a question someone may want to ask lawmakers in the Florida Senate. They just allowed a bill that would have required ignition interlocks for all offenders to die this past spring, and there’s no sign of bringing it back to life yet.

How much longer will Florida wait to pass this lifesaving law?

New Bills May Be Just What Massachusetts Drunk Driving Law Needs

Massachusetts drunk drivingThere’s a lot going on in the world of Massachusetts drunk driving lately, and a few new bills have been proposed to stop drunk driving offenders and ensure safer roads for everyone in the state.

Out of all the bills, the one that’s generating the most interest is the Massachusetts ignition interlock bill. This bill has been on the agenda several times but it’s never passed, and now Representative Louis Kafka has brought it to the table again.

The bill proposes that anyone convicted of drunk driving for the first time would be required to use an ignition interlock device for six months. An ignition interlock – a device that tests your blood alcohol content (BAC) every time you start the car, would be required instead of a driver’s license suspension.

If passed, the new law would be a change from current ignition interlock laws designed to stop Massachusetts drunk driving. Right now, ignition interlocks are only required for offenders charged two or more times and who receive a hardship driver’s license.

Representative Kafka has made a passionate plea for ignition interlocks as a means for drunk drivers to continue to work, drive their families, and resume their lives after a Massachusetts drunk driving conviction, but the bill has a long road before it’s law.

A similar bill never made it out of the House Ways and Means Committee when it was proposed, and this bill is currently in front of the Transportation Committee and waiting for a hearing. Although it’s in limbo the good news is that organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and AAA are all testifying on behalf of it, so there’s a positive force pushing it forward.

This could be the year that Massachusetts focuses on public safety and puts a lock down on all drunk driving offenders. Let’s hope there’s good news coming from the state soon.

Are Utah Drunk Driving Laws Going To Stick To .05?

Utah drunk driving laws Utah drunk driving laws have seen a big change over the past year. The state has adopted a new blood alcohol limit of .05 instead of the standard US limit of .08.

Although it won’t take effect for another year, the majority of the people in the state have come out in support of the new limit. Others though, haven’t been as happy about it.

The lobbying group for the alcohol industry, the American Beverage Institute, is one of the main detractors of the new blood alcohol limit. They’ve been running ads comparing drivers over the age of 65 with impaired drivers at the .05 level. They’ve also ran ads designed to increase panic in Utah’s hospitality industry.

Some lawmakers in Utah agree with them, and they’re calling for a compromise. They’d like to see reduced penalties for anyone who is arrested between the .05 and the .08 level, and they feel that penalties for first offenders at that level should be similar to a speeding ticket.

Right now a first offender in Utah will receive a driver’s license suspension of 120 days as well as the possibility of fines and an interlock requirement for any vehicle they drive. If the .05 blood limit passes, these penalties could be required after someone drinks as little as one glass of wine or a glass of beer.

Not everyone thinks lighter penalties are a good option for Utah drunk driving offenders. Some lawmakers are looking for a full repeal of the .05 limit, though that is unlikely. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been advocating for a lower US blood limit for years, and Utah’s change may be beginning of the end for .08 as a legal limit.

Despite the arguing over the law, at the end of the day the .05 limit may stay put in Utah. After such a big change it would be hard to justify someone walking away with what amounts to a speeding ticket because they were stopped with a .06 or .07 blood limit.

There’s no safe amount of alcohol you can drink and still drive, and Utah may finally be the state to prove that.

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