Drunken driving bills move on - Omaha.com
Published Friday, May 6, 2011 at 1:00 am / Updated at 12:26 am
Drunken driving bills move on

LINCOLN — Nebraska lawmakers could make a double-barreled attack this year on the deaths and injuries caused by drunken drivers.

Bills that would push the use of ignition interlocks and increase penalties for drunken driving were sent to the full Legislature on Thursday.

The Judiciary Committee advanced both Legislative Bill 667, crafted by Speaker of the Legislature Mike Flood of Norfolk, and LB 675, introduced by State Sen. Pete Pirsch of Omaha.

Flood’s bill would make numerous changes to the state’s drunken-driving laws, most intended to steer people arrested on suspicion of drunken driving into using ignition interlock devices.

Flood’s bill would make numerous changes to the state’s drunken-driving laws, most intended to steer people arrested on suspicion of drunken driving into using ignition interlock devices.

Interlock devices measure the alcohol in a person’s breath and prevent vehicles from being started by would-be drunken drivers.

Under current law, people arrested on suspicion of drunken driving receive a 30-day temporary driver’s license, followed by a 90-day license revocation. They can continue driving to work during the suspension if they get a work permit.

With an interlock installed, they can drive more places during the final 60 days of the revocation.

Under the bill advanced Thursday, people arrested for drunken driving would get a 15-day temporary license, followed by a 180-day license revocation. They could continue driving only if they agreed to have an interlock device installed. The work permit option would be eliminated.

The proposal aims to make accepting an interlock device more attractive than waiting out the revocation or risking driving with a suspended license.

People who challenge the administrative revocation of their licenses could get an interlock permit only with a court order.

Interlock devices also would be part of any sentence for drivers convicted of first- or second-offense drunken driving.

The first $40 of the $45 interlock permit fee would go into a fund to pay for the devices for people who otherwise could not afford them. A driver generally pays $25 to $50 to have a device installed and then a daily monitoring fee of about $2.

LB 667 also would create new drinking-and-driving crimes and stiffen penalties.

The bill would create the crimes of drunken driving with a child in the car and motor vehicle homicide of an unborn child.

Knowingly and intentionally providing alcohol to a minor who kills or injures someone because of drinking would become a felony.

But the committee rejected a proposal for a mandatory two-day jail sentence for anyone who provides alcohol to a minor. Committee members expressed concern about how the provision would affect store clerks, bartenders and other servers.

The bill also would create tougher penalties for drinking while boating and extend the law to personal watercraft.

Pirsch’s proposal would double most fines for drunken-driving convictions and increase penalties for hit-and-run drivers involved in accidents that cause a death or serious injury. Fines could go as high as $2,000.

Pirsch’s bill would make it illegal for a repeat drunken driver to drive with as little as .02 percent blood-alcohol content.

It also would set a two-year minimum prison sentence for people convicted of fifth-offense driving under the influence.

Committee members stripped out a provision that would have made it a crime to drive with an illegal drug in one’s system.

Senators called the idea problematic because testing can detect many drugs, such as marijuana or methamphetamine, long after a person is no longer under its influence.

Contact the writer:

402-473-9583, martha.stoddard@owh.com

Contact the writer: Martha Stoddard

martha.stoddard@owh.com    |   402-473-9583    |  

Martha covers the Nebraska Legislature, the governor, state agencies, and health, education and budget issues out of our Lincoln bureau.

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