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Stiffer law for DUI repeaters advances

Stiffer law for DUI repeaters advances charges in fatal DUI

By Howard Fischer | Capitol Media Services | Tucson, Arizona

PHOENIX A Senate panel agreed Monday to make it easier to arrest and convict people who repeatedly drive drunk.

The Senate Judiciary Committee voted 6-0 to set the legal blood-alcohol threshold at 0.05 percent for anyone who has ever been convicted of aggravated driving under the influence. That compares with the 0.08 percent limit for anyone without a similar record.

The measure is modeled after a law passed in Maine in 1988. Chuck Heeman, state executive director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said that law resulted in an immediate 25 percent reduction in alcohol-related deaths. Heeman said the stricter standard would "make a lot of people think before they commit this crime again."

"This is not for someone who has made one mistake," said Sen. Jim Waring, R-Phoenix. He said a suspect would not be affected by the measure without having a prior drunken driving conviction.

It takes more than just being intoxicated to be convicted of aggravated drunken driving in the first place. It includes those who have had two prior drunken driving violations within the past five years; those who are legally intoxicated while their licenses are suspended for a prior drunken driving conviction; and those who drive intoxicated with a child under 15 in the vehicle.

But the idea of a dual standard bothered Sen. Bill Brotherton, D-Phoenix.

He pointed out that in this country, unlike some others in Europe, there is nothing that makes drinking and driving illegal. Instead, the law says someone cannot be impaired and it sets a presumptive limit of 0.08 percent as showing impairment.

Brotherton said this legislation suggests that one person with a reading of 0.05 percent is more dangerous than another based solely on prior convictions.

The measure now goes to the full Senate.

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