Monday, April 29, 2013
Gov. Jay Inslee’s proposal to get habitual drunken drivers off the road is the right direction for the state.
The proposal was introduced in the waning days of the legislative session, so it would have been unrealistic to expect action this year. Yet, it happened — in a kinda, sorta way
Sunday, as Republican and Democratic lawmakers prepared to head into a special session to hammer out huge political differences in the budget, they reached a tentative agreement on the DUI proposal. It was seen as a symbolic show of bipartisanship in Olympia.
Inslee said a group of lawmakers have 95 percent of a deal on the package. It is the financial issues that must be resolved.
Hmmm, 95 percent might be overly optimistic. Financial issues are usually the biggest issues.
Nevertheless, having the idea on the table will give lawmakers — and the public — time to really talk about and think about the plan. It gives experts and citizens the opportunity to fully vet the proposal.
It’s clear more needs to be done about multiple offenders. The trick will be to figure out what will be effective and affordable.
It is incredibly foolish to drink and drive today given the high risk to life and limb as well as the financial cost and embarrassment of being convicted.
Many of those caught drinking and driving know better but made a stupid mistake in the moment — and they know it. It is those people who learn from that mistake, never do it again and even work to prevent others from making the same stupid and dangerous mistake.
The penalties for first-time offenders would seem to be sufficient.
But some of those convicted one, two or more times appear to have no remorse and continue to find ways to drink and drive. It is those people who need more than a wake-up call, they need to have their efforts to drive after drinking circumvented.
This is what the plan introduced by Inslee and a bipartisan group of legislators aims to do.
The proposal sets mandatory minimum jail times for second and third offenses, according to The Associated Press. Offenders can avoid jail on the second offense if they enroll in a substance abuse program requiring them to take Breathalyzer tests routinely. Those convicted of a third offense would be sentenced to 364 days in jail (a sentence of a year or more requires serving time in a state prison). In addition, three-time offenders would be issued an identification card aimed at prohibiting them from buying booze for 10 years.
Simply coming up with tough penalties in a vacuum could create unintended problems for law enforcement, the public and the state budget. Adding a significant amount of jail time isn’t cheap and some county jails might not be able to handle an increase in inmates and the costs.
Still, it is clear something needs to be done to stop these habitual offenders. Inslee’s plan seems a good place to start.