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A DUI could mean more jail time if bill passes

A DUI could mean more jail time if bill passes

Jessica Coomes | The Arizona Republic | Jan. 18, 2007 05:15 PM

The drunkest of drunk drivers could serve more time in jail if a state lawmaker's DUI proposal catches on.

State Sen. Jim Waring proposed the creation a new blood-alcohol content classification for the most extreme DUI offenders, and he wants to deter drunken driving by forcing first-time extreme offenders to serve a full 30 or 45 days in jail with no reduced time for attending treatment programs.

The drivers being targeted have built up a substantial tolerance to alcohol and drive while heavily intoxicated. Waring said he is not going after most DUI offenders, who serve their time and do not repeat their offense.

In Arizona, drivers with blood-alcohol levels, or BACs, nearly double the legal limit, at least 0.15percent, accounted for nearly two-thirds of all alcohol-related vehicle deaths in 2005, statistics show.

"You're really pushing the envelope," Waring said about the extreme offenders. "You're dangerous."

The state Legislature incrementally toughens DUI laws each year. Previous legislation has dropped the BAC limit to 0.08percent from 0.10percent and defined extreme DUI as 0.15percent from 0.18percent.

Waring would like to create a new DUI classification of 0.20percent.

He also wants to prevent judges from being able to suspend part of an extreme offender's sentence, which now is possible if the offender completes a drug or alcohol treatment, screening or education program.

"Unfortunately, we haven't been able to really reach people with simple fines (for DUI), especially when their jail sentences also are suspended," said Ericka Espino, state executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. "A tough crackdown on some of these laws, if these people are required to serve out their jail terms, might actually send a message to people."

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