House agrees with Senate: Padden’s DUI bill should become law

padden_pqSen. Mike Padden is grateful that the DUI-related legislation he introduced is on its way to becoming law, following a unanimous vote today in the state House of Representatives. The state Senate had given Senate Bill 5912 its unanimous support Wednesday.

“This represents the most comprehensive set of changes in many, many years to our state’s laws against driving under the influence – a crime that is completely preventable. It will hold drunk drivers accountable and make our roads safer like never before,” said Padden, R-Spokane Valley.

“Many people in the Senate, House and governor’s office worked hard to get this bill to a point where it could win unanimous support; on behalf of the families whose loved ones will be spared death or injury as a result, I offer my thanks.”

The measure began taking shape in late April, shortly after three people died and two were critically injured in a pair of high-profile DUI-related collisions in King County. In both cases the accused drivers had recent DUI arrests; however, they had yet to go to trial and did not have alcohol-detecting ignition-interlock devices installed on their vehicles.

Padden’s bill will have officers automatically arrest people suspected of a second or more DUI within a 10-year period; those arrested will be required to have ignition-interlock devices installed as a condition of being released from custody. Also, drivers convicted of DUI while driving the wrong way or while children are passengers will face stiffer penalties.

As a former judge who handled countless DUI cases during a dozen years on the Spokane County district court bench, Padden is looking forward to the introduction of a new tool: a 24/7 sobriety program that can allow offenders to avoid electronic home monitoring by requiring regular testing for alcohol consumption. He got the idea for the program from South Dakota, where it has been successful; SB 5912 allows for it to be tested in three counties and two cities.

“Although there will always be some people who’ll never figure out that they shouldn’t drink and drive, my ultimate goal is not to fill our jails but to make our roads safe and protect families from the suffering that so often results from alcohol abuse and DUI,” said Padden, chairman of the Senate Law and Justice Committee,. “There are people who need that extra incentive to avoid alcohol, and I believe this 24/7 sobriety program could be just the thing.”

The House adopted Padden’s measure rather than a similar bill that was put on the House voting calendar earlier this week.