New Jersey, Washington make push to punish repeat DUI offenders

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | Wednesday, August 14, 2013

An effort at the New Jersey statehouse would hand down harsher penalties for repeat drunken driving offenders. In Washington state, repeat offenders will soon face jail time.

New Jersey law now limits punishment for affected offenders to a traffic offense. Bail typically is set at $2,500.

The traffic offense designation allows drivers charged with drunken driving to continue to drive while awaiting their court date.

A bill awaiting consideration on the Assembly floor would end that practice. Instead, A3057 would boost punishment for a person convicted of driving under the influence two times or more within 60 days to a fourth-degree crime. Specifically, offenders would face up to 18 months in prison and/or up to $10,000 fines.

License suspensions would also result for repeat offenders. In addition, judges could impose bail of up to $10,000.

The bill follows a case in Vineland, NJ, where a man was arrested for drunken driving five times in five weeks while awaiting a court date for his initial infraction.

Assemblyman John Burzichelli, D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland, said the rule change would help address a problem that is unacceptable.

“Everyone can make a mistake, but when it’s done repeatedly, especially in a relatively close time frame, it’s clear that the person has a problem and should be dealt with quickly both for their own sake the safety of others,” Burzichelli said in a previous statement.

If approved on the Assembly floor, A3057 would move to the Senate for further consideration.

A new law in Washington state also covers drunken drivers. Effective Sept. 28, police will be required to arrest drivers suspected of driving under the influence if they already have an impaired driving offense on their record.

Existing state law doesn’t require that offenders be put behind bars.

The new law also makes offenders in certain areas responsible for picking up the tab for getting ignition interlock devices installed on their vehicles.

The pilot program can be set up in as many as three counties or two cities not in those counties. It takes effect Jan. 1, 2014.

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