Last-minute legislative push is on for new DUI measure

OLYMPIA -- There are up to 40,000 DUI arrests every year in Washington and most are first-time offenders like Hannah Casar.

“I am very careful now going out; I think it’s really helped me, I think the one-time conviction,” said Casar.

King County prosecutor Dan Satterberg wants stricter DUI laws and believes resources should be spent on the 13% who are repeat offenders.

“I want to focus on repeat offenders, not try for everything for everybody,” said Satterberg.

The bill sets mandatory minimum jail times for second and third offenses, but offenders can avoid a six-month jail term on a second offense if they enroll in an approved sobriety program and wear a special bracelet that would alert authorities if they ingest any alcohol.

On a third offense, offenders would be sentenced to a year in jail and issued an identification card that would prohibit them from purchasing alcohol for 10 years.

It would also require that ignition interlock devices be installed during the mandatory 12-hour impounding of a vehicle after a DUI arrest -- and before a conviction.

Top safety officials attending a hearing in Olympia Thursday said, however, that the new DUI bill, HB 2030, is too broad and focuses too much on first-time offenders.

State Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, said he’s taking that advice to heart. Some say Goodman’s solution to rehabilitate repeat offenders is certainly bold.

“On your third DUI conviction, you will receive a special driver’s license that’s marked that will prohibit you from being sold or served alcohol,” said Goodman.

Under this bill, with a second DUI conviction, offenders will get the chance to pick between jail or taking a sobriety program.

“For the court to say you can’t drink alcohol anymore, that is a bold move; whether or not the courts are ready to enforce it or not is another question,” said Satterberg.

Lawmakers are discussing technology that could help supervise those who choose sobriety, including a special bracelet that can detect alcohol through the skin.  But the costs are big and Goodman said the expense will be fronted by the offenders, not taxpayers.

“Ordering people not to drink is a futile effort if you don’t have a drug treatment program,” said Satterberg,

Goodman said prison is not the answer and he hopes to emphasize treatment in the fight against DUIs.

“The thing now that’s most promising right now is that people are talking about DUI because, frankly, the answer is not the new laws but in the attitude,” said Satterberg.

For Casar, that attitude change unfortunately came with handcuffs but says she will never do it again.

“Have a plan of how you are going to get home,” advised Casar.

The ACLU said installing ignition interlock devices on people's vehicles before they are convicted of a DUI could be a violation of rights. They want a judge to have probable cause before they mandate the device be installed.

Goodman said that is a good point and the bill will be rewritten to reflect that. But the Legislature is scheduled to complete business on April 28.