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Drinking ban proposed for repeat drunk drivers

THURSDAY, FEB. 19, 2009, 3:51 P.M.

BOISE - A North Idaho lawmaker wants to ban repeat drunken drivers from buying, consuming or possessing alcohol.

Rep. Jim Clark, R-Hayden Lake, proposed legislation today that would impose bans for anywhere from five years to life, depending on the offense.

“Have you ever read in the paper about somebody with their eighth DUI, their ninth DUI, 10th DUI?” Clark asked the House Judiciary Committee, which he chairs. “This will put a stop to it. … This is a big idea. It’s a total shift in how we deal with these individuals.”

Clark said the bill hasn’t yet been reviewed by sheriffs or others; he asked the panel to introduce it so that discussion could start.

The committee agreed unanimously. “It’s a different approach, and I think we should be open to different approaches,” said Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum.

Clark said afterward that the 14-page bill isn’t modeled after any other state’s law, and is just something he worked up after hearing from a constituent who was upset about people getting DUI after DUI.

“He was tired of seeing this stuff in the paper about people with 10 DUI’s,” Clark said. The lawmaker himself had a DUI in 1999, but it wouldn’t have fallen under the proposed law, because it was a first offense and he refused a blood-alcohol test, surrendering his license instead.

Clark’s bill would impose a five-year ban on alcohol purchase, consumption or possession for those who have a first-time DUI but register blood-alcohol levels of .20 or higher - the legal limit is .08 - or who have a second regular DUI within 10 years. Those who have a second DUI with .20 blood-alcohol or higher, a third DUI of any type with alcohol concentration of .04 or higher (half the legal limit), or who cause “great bodily harm, permanent disability or permanent disfigurement to another person” while driving drunk, would be permanently banned from buying, consuming or possessing alcohol.

People under the bans would have special notations on their driver’s licenses or state-issued I.D. cards, and it’d be a misdemeanor for them to try to buy alcohol.

“I know it’s lengthy, I know it’s somewhat of a new policy idea,” Clark told the committee. “I’m about begging you, if you will, to print this and let’s get it out on the streets.”

Heather Reilly, a deputy Ada County prosecutor who serves as legislative adviser for the Idaho Prosecuting Attorneys Association, said, “I think it’s an interesting concept - I definitely would like to review the language. … Anything we can do to further protect the community from drunk driving is a step in the right direction.”

Reilly said most laws she’s heard of in other states target the driving privilege. “People can drink, really, as much as they want just as long as they don’t put the community at risk,” she said. “There may be other constitutional issues that haven’t been addressed” raised by the proposal.

Clark said he just wanted to do something about the issue. “I figured I’d toss it out,” he said.

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