A number of legislative initiatives aimed at strengthening the state's DUI laws and improve highway safety, authored by Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin, will be heard before House and Senate Judiciary committees this week.
Ignition Interlock H5338/S0563, introduced by Representative Raymond Gallison and Senator Susan Sosnowski at the request of Attorney General Kilmartin, would allow the Courts to order the use of an ignition interlock system as part of a sentence for those who commit alcohol-related offenses, including refusals or DUIs. Currently, the Judiciary has the statutory authority to sentence a condition of ignition interlock only on second and subsequent offenses of DUI.
The legislation allows for enhanced penalties and duration of the ignition interlock system for subsequent offenses and penalties for those who attempt to circumvent the operation of an ignition interlock system, operating a motor vehicle not equipped with an interlock system, or soliciting another person to start a motor vehicle equipped with an ignition interlock system.
"Allowing judges and magistrates the ability to order the installation of an interlock system as a condition of a sentence for an alcohol-related driving offense is in the best interest of public safety by ensuring offenders cannot drink and drive," said Attorney General Kilmartin.
Extending the "Look Back" Period to 10 Years H5505/S0564, introduced by Representative Donna Walsh and Senator Susan Sosnowski, would increase the "look back" period on repeat alcohol-related offenses to ten years. Currently it is only five years.
According to the Century Council's Hardcore Drunk Driving Sourcebook, a majority of jurisdictions have a "look back" period of 10 years. In fact, Rhode Island is the only New England state with a "look back" period of less than 10 years.
The 10 year "look back" period is supported by the National Highway Safety Administration, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the National Hardcore Drunk Driver Project.
"Our current statute includes a dangerous loophole that allows habitual drunk drivers to be treated as first time offenders, threatening the lives of citizens on our roads every day. Moreover, by holding repeat offenders more accountable, we may also address the issues with alcohol abuse they may face and get them the help they need," said Attorney General Kilmartin.
Driving Injury Offenses H5379/S0565, introduced by Representative Donna Walsh and Senator Susan Sosnowski, amends §31-27-1 and §31-27-1.1 to increase the imprisonment sanctions for driving to endanger resulting in death from up to 10 years to up to 20 years, and those in violation of driving as to endanger serious bodily injury from up to five years to up to 10 years.
The legislation would also increase the penalty range for DUI death resulting or serious bodily injury. A conviction under DUI, resulting in death would now be subject to imprisonment for five to 30 years, a fine of $5,000 to $20,000, and license revocation for five to 10 years. A conviction under DUI, resulting in serious bodily injury would now be subject to imprisonment for up to 20 years, a fine of $1,000 to $10,000, and license revocation for three to five years.
The legislation also creates the criminal offense of driving under the influence resulting in injury. This act would address the situation where injury results from driving under the influence, but does not meet the standard of "serious bodily injury." Those in violation would be guilty of a felony and subject to imprisonment for not more than three years and have his or her license to operate a motor vehicle suspended for not more than one year.
"We do not tolerate those who get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle under the influence, and need strict penalties for those who flagrantly violate the law, risking every other person with whom they share the road. If you choose to drink and drive, and cause injury or death, you will be subject to some of the stiffest penalties in the country," said Attorney General Kilmartin.
H5432/S0560 – Driving While Impaired H5432/S0560, introduced by Representative Donald Lally and Senator Louis DiPalma, would close an unintended loophole in the state's DUI laws. The legislation would decrease the maximum blood alcohol concentration for a person 18 to 20 years old with driving while impaired from less than .10 to .08, making it the same for all adults over the age of 18.
The Attorney General's legislative package of alcohol-related offenses is scheduled to be heard before the House Committee on Judiciary on Tuesday and the Senate Committee on Judiciary on Thursday.