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New legislation to target repeat DUI offenders

(SAN MATEO COUNTY) Assemblymember Jerry Hill (D-San Mateo) held a press conference yesterday to unveil legislation that will make it more difficult for repeat DUI offenders to get their license back.

In November, a series of news articles were printed throughout the state regarding a Burlingame man who had reobtained his driver’s license after being convicted of eight DUIs- which resulted in his ninth.

The San Mateo County Times reported that the man, 42 year-old William Simon, was able to continuously get his license back because he never injured anyone and his arrests occurred over a 24-year period. In his ninth offense, his blood alcohol content was 0.22 — nearly triple the legal limit of 0.08.

Simon is not alone in holding the record for most DUIs in the state of California. A second individual with nine DUIs also resides in San Mateo County, which prompted Hill to dub the county as "the poster child for repeat DUI offenders.”

Assemblymember Hill feels this highlights a serious flaw in California state law.

The proposed legislation would authorize judges to repeal licenses for drivers who receive three or more DUIs.

“This legislation will make it more difficult for repeat DUI offenders to get their license back,” said Assemblymember Hill. “Lawmakers need to protect innocent bystanders from individuals with multiple DUI convictions who are likely to reoffend.”

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that one-third of the annual 1.5 million DUI arrests are repeat offenders. The statewide statistics on repeat DUI offenders is staggering:

• 154,000 have two DUI convictions
• Over 34,000 have three or more

In 2008, over 1,000 people were killed by drunk drivers in California and another 28,000 were injured.

Between December 24 and December 27, the California Highway Patrol arrested 160 impaired drivers in the Bay Area- an increase from the 123 arrested last year in the same period.

Statewide DUI arrests are also on the rise. While 842 were arrested in 2008 during the week surrounding Christmas, an additional 130 impaired drivers were cited for driving under the influence in 2009.

The proposed legislation is supported by law enforcement officials, the Governor and organizations like MADD.

“I applaud Assemblymember Hill for his efforts to keep our roads safe and protect California drivers,” said Governor Schwarzenegger. “Public safety has always been my top priority, which is why I recently signed legislation to prevent DUI offenders from getting on the road while intoxicated.”

Last October, the Governor signed AB 91 by Assembly member Mike Feuer (D-Los Angeles) which creates an ignition interlock device pilot program in four counties for every vehicle owned or operated by a first-time DUI offender. He also signed SB 598 by Senator Bob Huff (R-Diamond Bar) allowing repeat DUI offenders to apply for a restricted license if they install an ignition interlock device on their vehicle. The ignition interlock device, an instrument installed on a motor vehicle’s dashboard, tests a person’s blood alcohol concentration before the vehicle can be started.

“As we approach the New Year holiday, I encourage all Californians to drive responsibly to ensure a safe driving environment for all motorists.”

With New Year’s Eve upon us, drivers are advised to keep the following in mind:

DUI Punishment in California

First Offense: Probation 3-5 years; Fine $390 - $1000; Jail 0 days - 6 months; DUI Class 3, 6, or 9 months; license suspended 6 months on top of any DMV suspension, unless timed together with work license. Ignition Interlock Device (IID) installation in car owned or driven by you required after 7/1/2010.

Second Offense: Same probation / fine; Jail - 4 days up to 1 year; DDP Class 18 or 30 months; license suspended 2 years; IID to obtain work license after one year suspended.

Third Offense: same probation / fine; Jail 120 days up to 1 year; DDP Class; license revoked.

Fourth Offense: Probation possible; Fine $390 - $1000; State Prison or Jail 180 days up to 1 year; DDP Class; license revoked.