Thursday, January 21, 2016

Senate approves bill to crack down on repeat DUI offenders

The state Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would strengthen penalties for habitual drunken drivers.

Senate Bill 56, sponsored by Sen. Dennis Parrett, D-Elizabethtown, would change what is known in legal circles as the “look back period” to 10 years from five years. What that means is that if someone is convicted of drunken driving multiple times in a 10-year period the penalties for the crimes can be increased. The bill would also expand the quarterly reporting window of pending DUI cases to 180 days from 90 days.

“For a lot of people, the first DUI is a mistake,” Parrett, D-Elizabethtown, said during discussion of the bill on the Senate floor. “But the second one is not a mistake. The third, fourth and the fifth are big problems and we need to correct that.”

According to Parrett, statistics show that 99.6 percent of habitual drunken drivers’ DUI cases fall within a 10-year period.

If the bill becomes law, it would be named the Brianna Taylor Act. Brianna was 17 when she died in a car wreck in the summer of 2014 in Hardin County. The Elizabethtown High School graduate was on her way home from a fishing trip at the time of the crash.

Similar legislation was approved in the Senate last year but did not become law. SB 56, which was approved by the Senate on a 35-1 vote, will now go to the state House for consideration. Sen. Dorsey Ridley of Henderson voted for the legislation.