Major changes to the state’s DUI laws are one step closer to a vote by the full Senate. This afternoon the Senate Ways and Means Committee endorsed legislation from Sen. Mike Padden to help keep drunk drivers off the road while those who keep racking up DUI arrests would head to prison sooner.
“DUI is a completely preventable crime, and I’m very encouraged by the continued support for this comprehensive and balanced approach toward preventing it,” said Padden, chairman of the Senate Law and Justice Committee. “This bill would help people who want to stop driving under the influence and have serious consequences for those who won’t; all the while it should make our roads safer.”
Between the creation of a 24/7 sobriety program – an idea imported from South Dakota that offers an alternative to electronic home monitoring – and speeding the installation of ignition-interlock devices for drivers arrested a second time on suspicion of DUI, Padden said Senate Bill 5912 will do more to help repeat DUI offenders to stay sober – or at least avoid getting behind the wheel again when they’re legally intoxicated.
At the same time, said Padden, R-Spokane Valley, the legislation would allow for automatic arrests so repeat DUI offenders are no longer cited and released; also, a fourth DUI will be a felony, rather than the fifth, meaning a prison term rather than jail time.
Padden’s measure would make several additional changes, such as increasing the mandatory minimum sentences for repeat DUI offenders. When coupled with a similar bill moving through the House of Representatives, he said, it’ll make for a strong response by lawmakers looking to take action after three people died and two were critically injured in a pair of recent high-profile DUI-related collisions in King County.
“This is the most important action the Legislature can take during this special session, other than wrapping up the two remaining budgets,” said Padden, a retired longtime judge who also serves on the budget committee. “The DUI deaths in King County changed the political climate, and that’s why these changes are continuing along the path to becoming law.”