California May Soon Have Stronger DUI Laws

Tuesday, March 30, 2010
A bill that would give judges the power to permanently revoke the licenses of DUI offenders is slowly advancing towards becoming a law. California DUI lawyers and civil rights advocates are rightly outraged that the bill is even being considered at all.

Bill A.B. 1601 was introduced by California Assemblyman Jerry Hill. It would allow judges to consider a drunk driving offender’s entire lifetime history of DUI arrests, instead of just over the past 10 years which is currently the rule. If the bill is passed, a motorist having two DUI arrests 20 years apart, would have the same kind of punishment as a person with two DUI arrests in a single year. Obviously, the two are entirely different situations. According to estimates, there are currently 300,000 motorists in California with at least three DUI convictions on their records. If the bill becomes law, motorists like these would stand to lose their driving privileges permanently.

In a state like California, where people are still dependent on cars to get around in the absence of easy access to public transportation, losing driving privileges permanently would mean havoc in a person’s professional life. The American Civil Liberties Union is also taking a dim view of this provision. Assemblyman Hill insists that his bill will allow judges to use their discretion when they decide to permanently revoke a motorist’s driving privileges.

That point simply does not comfort California DUI attorneys. Besides the fact that it promotes revoking licenses permanently and arbitrarily for DUI offenses over a person’s entire lifetime, there is also the fact that such measures never attack the problem they are meant to solve. Not being able to drive to work will only mean an increase in the number of unlicensed motorists in California, and all the problems that that brings.

Drunk driving is not the major issue it used to be, and there are fewer people being arrested for these offenses. It makes little sense to enact such unnecessarily strong legislation that would only add to problems with traffic safety.