Stricter DUI penalties may be on the horizon
The Legislature is set to pass a bill that would significantly stiffen penalties for drunken driving offenses.
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The Legislature is set to pass a bill that would significantly stiffen penalties for drunken driving offenses, including making it a felony if a driver is convicted three times of driving under the influence within 10 years — a charge that carries the possibility of up to five years’ imprisonment.
House Bill 703 would also stiffen monetary penalties for driving under the influence and increase the time that drivers would lose their licenses.
For a second offense within a 10-year period, drivers would lose their licenses for two to three years, up from the current statutory requirement of 18 months to two years. Fines for second-
time offenders would also double to between $1,000 and $3,000.
The bill was introduced by state Rep. Chris
Lee (D, Kailua-
after a devastating car crash in Kakaako in January that left three dead and several people seriously injured.
“It’s really sad that it takes tragic events like these, which are so avoidable, to bring attention to these issues,” said Lee. “But it is clear that every DUI-related death is avoidable. So this is our next step to make sure that people think twice before getting behind the wheel.”
Of the 517 traffic fatalities in Hawaii from 2013 to 2017, about 40% of them were alcohol-related, according to data from the Department of Transportation.
A more controversial part of the bill that would have allowed judges to prohibit drunken drivers from purchasing or publicly consuming alcohol for three years after their conviction was deleted from the final version of the bill. Instead, the measure requires that a task force study the proposal.
Carol McNamee, who founded the Hawaii chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said that the restriction on public alcohol consumption was an interesting idea but could be difficult to implement and cumbersome for the restaurant and bar industry.
The state public defender’s office raised concerns about the bill in early testimony, in particular the reclassification of a third offense for driving under the influence as a felony. It currently takes four convictions. The public defender’s office argued the change would increase the prison population at a time when the trend is to reduce it and offer treatment for alcohol and drug abuse that would be more effective.
The bill awaits final votes in the House and Senate before it can be sent to Gov. David Ige for final decision-