GOP legislators announce comprehensive DUI package

105th General Assembly State of Tennessee
January 30, 2008

GOP legislators announce comprehensive
DUI package

NASHVILLE – Senate Judiciary Chairman Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet), Senator Jack Johnson (R-Franklin), General Welfare Chairman Rusty Crowe (R-Johnson City), Representatives Tom DuBois (R-Columbia), Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough) and Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol) announced today that they have introduced comprehensive legislation to combat drunk driving in Tennessee. The legislators held a press conference where they presented a multi-faceted approach to the problem that includes automatic license revocation, lowering legal blood alcohol content levels for certain offenses, greater use of ignition interlock devices, a ban on open containers, and tougher penalties against repeat offenders and for those who refuse to take the BAC test.

“It’s time that Tennessee gets down to business and passes DUI reform that will truly cut down on drunk driving,” said Senate Judiciary Chairman Mae Beavers.  “We are pleased the governor has come on board with his support of the automatic license revocation that we have been pushing for years, but we think we can—and must—do more.”

“We know we face an uphill battle with limited funds this year,” added Rep. DuBois.  “If we cannot accomplish all of these initiatives, we want to bring them to the table to give them a fair hearing so that we can begin to set this as a priority and attack this tragic problem.”

There were 1,287 fatalities on Tennessee roads with 509 due to alcohol-related crashes, a 7.6 percent increase from the previous year.  Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among persons between the ages of 3 and 33, with 50% of the victims being in alcohol-related crashes.

“The number of victims at the hands of drunk drivers in Tennessee is unacceptable,” said Senator Jack Johnson. “Fifty-two percent of drivers that were involved in alcohol-related fatalities had BAC levels at or above .16.  So, we know that these are the offenders we need to focus our resources on to get them off our roads.”

Rep. Jon Lundberg, who has a proposal to ban open containers, added, ”The law presently on the books is merely an invitation for someone to drink and drive as long as there’s a passenger that they can ‘pass the bottle’ to if they get pulled over by law enforcement.”

Tennessee has only five of the eleven elements proposed by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) who have designed model legislation for a comprehensive approach to lowering the incidence of DUI in states. In addition to lowering the level for extreme drunk driving, NTSB also urges adoption of legislation to enhance license confiscation, vehicle immobilization, vehicle impoundment, zero tolerance for repeat offenders or lowering BAC levels for repeat offenders, and enactment of an automatic license revocation program (ALR).  The NTSB claims ALR is a major factor proven to reduce alcohol-related car crashes.  Without ALR, the offender can get back on the road as soon as they are sober enough to drive.

Finally, the NTSB urged passage of a more uniform and mandatory system for installation of interlock devices to immobilize the vehicle of a drunk driver upon detection of alcohol in their body.  Interlock devices are small pieces of equipment attached to the steering wheel of a car with a tube that the driver must breathe into in order to allow the ignition to start.

“The bottom line is that this state must reform our drunk driving laws. There must be consequences for irresponsible actions—actions that kill and that put other law abiding citizens in grave danger,” added Rep. Hill. “When someone gets behind the wheel drunk, their vehicle is a dangerous weapon.”

Hill is sponsoring legislation that requires interlock devices for DUI offenders.  If any alcohol is detected, the interlock device will not allow the driver to operate the vehicle. Hill said the technology is advancing with more alternatives to help immobilize vehicles after alcohol is detected.

Hill is also sponsoring legislation with Senator Rusty Crowe to keep the worst DUI offenders in jail for their full sentence.  In addition they have a proposal to prescribe tougher penalties for the crime of “aggravated vehicular homicide.”

Senator Crowe said, “Our national highway experts have rightfully pointed out the flaws in our DUI laws. We fall short of half of their recommendations.  That is unacceptable. We will work hard to make sure our roads are safer than this.”

# # #

Comprehensive DUI Package

Bill Number

Sponsors

Summary

 

HB2877 / SB3037

 

DuBois / Beavers

A comprehensive bill requiring ignition interlock for DUI
offenders; lowers threshold to .02 BAC for repeat DUI offenders; lowers “extreme
DUI” from .2 to .15; provides for ALR; stiffens penalties for refusing a
breathalyzer test

 

 

HB2876 / SB3041

 

 

DuBois / Beavers

Creates Class D felony for fifth and subsequent DUI offenders with
minimum 360 consecutive day sentence; counts all convictions within 10 years of
DUI date when calculating prior offenses and includes convictions of vehicular
assault, vehicular homicide while intoxicated, and aggravated vehicular
homicide

 

HB2881 / SB3040

 

DuBois / Beavers

Prohibits District Attorney from plea bargaining with person
charged with DUI to any offense that does not involve unlawful operation of a
motor vehicle while under the influence of an intoxicant

 

HB3059 / SB3042

 

Lundberg / Beavers

Creates Class B misdemeanor offense of consuming alcoholic
beverage while driving motor vehicle on public highway and Class C misdemeanor
offense of possessing open container of alcoholic beverage within passenger area
of motor vehicle on public highway

 

HB2875 / SB3043

 

DuBois / Beavers

Requires healthcare providers to notify law enforcement officer at
hospital if results of tests performed on driver of vehicle involved in
collision indicate that the driver had a .08 percent BAC or was under the
influence of drugs

HB927 / SB1081

DuBois / Johnson

Lowers the blood alcohol level for an extreme DUI offense from .20
percent to .15 percent.

 

HB3091 / SB2869

 

Hill / Crowe

Adds vehicular homicide as a result of the driver’s intoxication
and aggravated vehicular homicide to offenses requiring at least 85 percent
service of sentence prior to release
eligibility

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