Alabama lawmaker wants changes to DUI rules

| 9/10/2008

If a state lawmaker gets his way, the penalties for driving under the influence in Alabama will get tougher.

Sen. Rusty Glover, R-Semmes, said he is planning to introduce a bill during the 2009 regular session that would authorize harsher penalties against drivers who get behind the wheel after drinking too much.

A similar effort stalled in committee during the 2008 session. But committee Chairman Roger Smitherman, D-Birmingham, is expected to relinquish his spot and become the Senate pro tem.

The change could make it easier to get the bill through the committee to a vote on the Senate floor, Glover told The Press-Register in Mobile, AL.

Glover said he is working on a bill that would authorize a new law regarding aggravated driving under the influence. It would apply to motorists with a blood alcohol content reading of at least 0.15 percent. The legal limit in Alabama is 0.08 percent.

Drivers who reach the second level would be subject to double the minimum penalties.

The change also would extend from five years the cutoff when considering an offender’s history of driving under the influence. Offenders also would be required to participate in programs with victims of drunken drivers.

Another provision would remove Alabama from the list of less than a half dozen states that don’t require the use of a device that prevents a vehicle from starting when the driver has a drunken-driving conviction.

Interlocks are hooked up to the ignition of vehicles. Once such a device is installed, a driver must blow into a mouthpiece, which measures the amount of alcohol on a person’s breath. If the driver blows clean, the car will then start; if not, it won’t budge.

In addition, the devices often require drivers to re-blow in the machine after a designated period of time, to ensure that they have not convinced someone else to blow into the mouthpiece for them, or that they haven’t been drinking since getting behind the wheel.

Advocates for stricter drunken driving rules cite statistics that show drivers who are convicted on driving while intoxicated usually have driven drunk between 80 and 100 times before being caught.

One more provision expected to be included is intended to close a loophole in the state’s drunken driving laws. It would focus on a rule that allows for a longer minimum sentence for a third DUI offense than a fourth offense.

Gov. Bob Riley previously has supported the effort that could be brought up for consideration during the session that begins in January 2009.

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

– By Keith Goble, state legislative editor