California DUI Bill That Would Have Imposed Tougher Penalties Stalled Due to Funding Concerns

Friday, May 07, 2010

A California bill being promoted by an enthusiastic lawmaker who wants to make it tougher for persons with more than three DUI offenders to retain their driving privileges, has been stalled because of concerns that it could cost the state more than it $10 million.

The bill is being promoted by Assemblyman Jerry Hill. It seeks to allow judges to consider a person's DUI convictions over his entire lifetime, instead of only over the past 10 years when deciding to revoke his driver license. Under California's current laws, when a person is convicted of DUI, prior convictions of DUI more than 10 years old do not count toward sentencing.  The more convictions a person has during that 10 year period, the stiffer the sentence.  This bill would eliminate that 10 year period and allow the judge to consider a driver’s complete driving record.

A law like this would increase the number of people eligible for prison time, and that is something that California's prisons simply cannot afford. There has been enough concern about the overpopulation of prisons in California, and the state has begun to address this issue by releasing persons convicted for minor offenses, like drug crimes and thefts.  In a situation like this, where we can hardly afford to keep existing prisoners behind bars, an additional burden of more prisoners, costing the state $10 million a year, would be foolish and useless.

Assemblyman Hill is already looking at tweaking the bill, so that it doesn't cost the state as much. One option could be to waive a permanent revocation of a person's driving license, if he agrees to get admitted into a substance or alcohol abuse treatment program. It's a proposal that California DUI lawyers might support. Getting treatment for alcohol addiction is what California's DUI offenders need the most. They have little incentive to get treatment for these addiction problems, if they have already lost their driver license permanently. Hopefully, the bill will be modified to reflect this fact.