DWI Law Reform Still Moving Through Legislature
At a Senate Governmental Accountability and Fiscal Oversight Committee hearing Monday, lawmakers voted to send the House version of the bill to the Senate floor. The Senate discussed it briefly but decided to take it on again later in the week.
One goal of restructuring DWI enforcement is to toughen punishment for repeat offenders. It increases the mandatory jail time to 30 days as opposed to the existing 10 days.
The bill also gives courts the discretion to provide treatment options and driving privileges.
"By giving the courts some discretion over limited driving privileges is an incentive to keep people in a rehab program. That tends to work very well," said Sen. Kurt Schaefer, R-Columbia.
Schaefer said "all or nothing" driving privileges aren't as effective for DWI offenders.
"They don't get treatment. They continue to drive drunk but they don't have a license and they don't have insurance," Schaefer said.
According to the Boone County Sheriff's Department, there were 351 DWI arrests in Boone County in 2009.
While there are only four days left in the session, several lawmakers are pretty confident in the bill's future.
"We have a pretty good idea that if we could get it out of the Senate, it would pass very quickly through the House," Schaefer said.
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Bryan Stevenson, R-Joplin, has a similar view.
"It would be our hope that it would come out of the Senate in a condition that we could simply pick it up, truly agree and finally pass it," Stevenson said.
One item in the House bill that caused opposition was warrantless blood drawing for DWI suspects who refuse a breathalyzer. The Senate took that part of the bill out during Senate Judiciary Committee. Stevenson said unfortunately he doesn't see the measure getting back in the bill this late in the session.
The current legislative session ends on Friday, May 14 at 6 p.m.