February 20, 2009 in Idaho

Idaho lawmaker targets multiple DUIs

Bill bans offenders from buying, drinking alcohol
Betsy Z. Russell Staff writer
 

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 Thursday 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, of which he is chairman. “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 hadn’t 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 the 14-page bill wasn’t modeled after any other state’s law. He worked it up after hearing from a constituent upset about people getting DUI after DUI.

“He was tired of seeing this stuff in the paper about people with 10 DUIs,” 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 and register blood-alcohol levels of 0.20 or higher – the legal limit is 0.08 – or who have two DUIs within 10 years. Those who have two DUIs with 0.20 blood-alcohol or higher, three DUIs with levels of 0.04 or higher, 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 notations on their driver’s licenses or state-issued ID cards, and it would be a misdemeanor for them to try to buy alcohol.

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

Reilly said most similar laws she’s heard of in other states target driving privileges.

“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.

Betsy Z. Russell can be reached toll-free at (866) 336-2854 or bzrussell@gmail.com. For more news from Boise go to www.spokesman.com/ boise.

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