New Ohio law targets repeat drunken drivers

| 7/15/2008

Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland has signed into law a bill that is intended to crack down on people with multiple drunken driving convictions. It takes effect in late September.

The new law, previously SB17, forces Ohio drivers with multiple DUI offenses in the state to submit to breath or blood testing when stopped by police on suspicion of drunken or drugged driving. Previous offenses must have been committed in the past 20 years to apply.

More than 33,000 drivers in Ohio have five or more DUIs, Sen. Tim Grendell, R-Chesterland, told The Toledo Blade. More than 100,000 drivers have three or more DUIs.

Existing Ohio law requires authorities to get a warrant from a judge to test blood or urine for alcohol or drugs on drivers who don’t initially give their consent.

Police soon will be permitted to use “whatever reasonable means are necessary” to get a blood sample from repeat offenders suspected of drunken driving who have refused a breath test.

Supporters say the new law will help deter repeat offenders from continuing to drive drunk. Opponents say the rule change is unconstitutional. The American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio is expected to challenge the law once enforcement begins, The Associated Press reported.

Another provision in the law requires ignition interlock devices to be installed for repeat offenders of the drunken driving rule. In certain instances, offenders must wear a bracelet that measures alcohol through a person’s sweat.

The bill also authorizes establishing a public registry of offenders with five or more convictions during the past 20 years. State law now prohibits the release of names and conviction records of those who have been convicted of drunken driving.

To view other legislative activities of interest for Ohio in 2008, click here.

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor