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Politics Northwest

The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

June 26, 2013 at 5:43 PM

State Senate approves scaled-back overhaul of DUI laws

The state Senate unanimously approved a set of changes to drunken driving laws Wednesday afternoon, but not before amendments stripped out two of the original proposal’s toughest provisions.

The provisions, which would have increased mandatory minimum jail sentences and made DUI a felony on the 4th time, instead of the 5th, were removed after negotiators decided they were too expensive, officials said.

Sponsor Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, said Senate Bill 5912 nonetheless would improve public safety.

“There are a lot of reasons for this bill,” said Padden, the chairman of the Senate Law & Justice Committee, citing several specific crashes, including one in Seattle’s Wedgwood neighborhood in March that started the renewed push for tougher laws.

The bill, the subject of long negotiations between lawmakers and Gov. Jay Inslee, would require that those with a previous DUI conviction who are arrested again on suspicion of DUI be arrested and charged within 48 hours.

It would also establish a pilot program, in three counties and two cities, in which some DUI offenders would be electronically monitored 24 hours a day to make sure they do not drink any alcohol.

In addition, the bill would expand DUI courts, restrict deferred sentencing and increase supervision of drunken-driving felons.

Finally, the bill would establish a working group to study further changes.

Despite the unanimous vote, several lawmakers expressed frustration at the limited nature of the amended bill.

“The bill that’s before us today, quite frankly, had much more in it,” said state Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn.

The original version was called the “most aggressive” overhaul of DUI laws in state history by Inslee when he and a bipartisan group of lawmakers unveiled it in April.

In addition to the increases in mandatory minimums and revised definition of felony DUI, the original version would have created a 10-year alcohol ban for those convicted of three DUIs.

An architect of the House version of the DUI bill, Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, has indicated that the House will also take up the scaled-back version of the bill.

Comments | More in State Legislature | Topics: DUI, Jay Inslee, Mike Padden

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