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States Looking to Rewrite DUI Laws



Numerous states are rewriting DUI (drunk driving) laws in an attempt to reduce the number of vehicle accidents involving alcohol. Michigan recently passed legislation for increased penalties, jail time, and mandatory use of a vehicle blood alcohol detector. However, not all jurisdictions are taking the same approach.

Kansas reportedly is considering a new DUI court where the emphasis will be on treatment for alcoholism rather than stiffer penalties. Recent successes with a drug court and a mental health court may pave the way for a similar court that deals with drunk driving.

Officials want to use these models because they have been effective in reducing the number of repeat offenders in these situations. Kansas judges report that about 40 percent of people convicted of DUI violate the terms of their parole by using alcohol. Penalties would not change in the new court; however, offenders would be required to meet with a judge monthly and be monitored. Minnesota has had success with a similar system.

The United States Territory of Guam has gone a step further than Kansas and opened the Driving While Intoxicated Therapeutic Court on November 12. Approximately 49 percent of Guam's traffic fatalities are drug- or alcohol-related, while 10 percent of the island's DUI arrestees are younger than age 21. The court will structure individual treatment programs for the purpose of rehabilitating DUI offenders. (Source: Pacific Daily News)

The program includes counseling and treatment. Participants must agree to random drug and alcohol testing and appear regularly before a judge. Guam has also obtained federal grant money that will allow expedited handling of these cases, which traditionally have languished in the legal system due to much-higher-priority cases.

If you are convicted of drunk driving, whether you receive stiffer penalties or a more rehabilitative sentence of drug and alcohol treatment depends on the state where you are arrested. It appears that state legislatures are divided on the best way to lower the number of repeat DUI offenders. Not in doubt, however, is the fact that this problem is receiving increased attention nationwide. If you are arrested for DUI, be sure to consult with a licensed DUI attorney in your area.