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Lawmaker's proposal would increase drunk driving penalties

A Washington state representative wants to reduce drunk driving. In order to help do that, the representative wants to do two things: push for tougher drunk driving laws and keep better track of repeat drunk drivers. If successful, the representative's ideas could result in more drunk driving charges and harsher penalties for those who are convicted.

One of the representative's ideas is to increase penalties to include longer prison sentences. Another idea is to institute sobriety checkpoints, which would involve stopping and checking all drivers for alcohol consumption. The representative would have these checkpoints positioned in known corridors during high-risk times, especially on Friday and Saturday nights.

But these checkpoints face a big impediment: they violate the Washington state constitution. According to the court, checkpoints that allow officers to pull over the law-abiding and the drunk alike is simply too large of an invasion of privacy. That ruling puts Washington into a minority of states that do not permit checkpoints.

The state representative contends that this prohibition puts Washingtonians at risk. Indeed, the representative highlights the fact that states allowing checkpoints enjoyed 20-to-30 percent reductions in drunk driving injuries and death.

Buoyed by these statistics, the representative is intent on pushing forward with his goals. He has already begun looking into ways to surmount the political and constitutional hurdles that exist in terms of implementing these ideas.

In the mean time, Washingtonians arrested on drunk driving charges know that consequences are already significant. Legally, those consequences can include hefty fines, jail time and license suspension. Vocationally, it can also jeopardize future work opportunities and more.

Because so much is at stake, Washingtonians should consider seeking legal advice. Doing something as simple as having a conversation could mean the difference between protecting one's rights and future versus having to rely on the generosity of a prosecutor.

Source: mynorthwest.com, "Washington lawmaker pushes checkpoints to cut DUI carnage," Nov. 4, 2013

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