House Bill Would Alter DUI Consequences

RICHMOND (WRIC)—The Virginia General
Assembly is considering a law that would change the punishment for first-time
DUI offenders.

Currently, if someone is found
guilty of DUI in the Commonwealth and has a blood alcohol level under .15, he
or she loses the right to drive altogether, and his or her driver's license
becomes suspended for a year.

House Bill 945 would change this,
allowing the offender to drive as long as they have an ignition interlock
system installed on his or her vehicle.

Jesse Coleman is a convicted drunk
driver. His license was suspended for a year, and he supports the proposed law
for first-time DUI offenders.

“I think it's a good idea,” Coleman
said. “The first time I think they should give ‘em a break.”

Democratic Delegate Scott Surovell
says even though licenses are suspended, most judges allow first-time offenders
to drive for certain reasons, like going to work, school or medical

“They have to blow in the device to
start the vehicle, and then they have to blow in the device every few minutes,
every 20, 30 minutes,” Surovell said. “We've developed this, what some people call
a Christmas tree of reasons that the court can authorize somebody to drive.”

Surovell says that makes it hard for
police to enforce the law.

“They stop them, say, just for
speeding. They have to then verify that the person is driving for a purpose
that's identified in the green sheet of paper,” Surovell said.

Surovell believes ignition interlock
systems will be more effective than suspended licenses, and repeat DUI offenses
could drop.

“Do you want to make sure somebody
doesn't do this again?” Surovell said.  “As
soon as you put the interlock on somebody's car, you can be assured they're not
gonna do it again.”

Mothers Against Drunk Driving and
AAA say they haven't yet taken a position on the proposed bill. They're
studying it and will likely come out in support or opposition of the bill
within the coming days.


Copyright 2014 by Young
Broadcasting of Richmond

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