February 1, 2008
Stiffer laws planned for DUI
NASHVILLE — Republican leaders are proposing a series of bills they say would further crack down on drunken driving in Tennessee, including a measure that would allow officers to immediately confiscate licenses during arrests.
Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat, announced in his State of the State address earlier this week that he has included in his budget proposal money to pay for the license measure, but Republicans claimed Thursday that their package of bills would go further.
“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 … do more,” said Senate Judiciary Chairman Mae Beavers, R-Mt. Juliet.
Bredesen’s spokeswoman said the governor had not seen the proposed legislation. One comprehensive bill also would require ignition interlocks for the cars of DUI offenders, lower the blood-alcohol content for “extreme DUI” charges from 0.2 to 0.15 percent and stiffen penalties for refusing a breathalyzer test.
Another would stiffen penalties for possessing an open container of alcohol in a vehicle. “We believe it’s time to get tough on drunken drivers in Tennessee,” said Rep. Tom DuBois, R-Columbia who is co-sponsor of four DUI bills with Beavers. “It’s as dangerous as someone aiming into a crowd and pulling the trigger.”
Statewide, 1,721 drivers were involved in fatal wrecks in 2006, according to the Tennessee Department of Safety. Of those, 445 (26 percent) had a blood-alcohol content of 0.01 percent or above.
Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, is co-sponsoring legislation that would add a charge of vehicular homicide as a result of the driver’s intoxication and aggravated vehicular homicide to offenses requiring at least 85percent of a sentence to be served.
Read the full texts of HB2877