In 2014, 9,967 people in the U.S. lost their lives in DUI-related crashes. Of that number, 882 deaths occurred in California, with some of those due to Los Angeles DUIs. But these figures don’t reflect the number of people whose lives are affected by DUI drivers, the victims’ families and friends as well as those injured in crashes involving alcohol or drugs.
Larry Haskell, the prosecutor in Spokane, Washington, has had enough. He recently announced changes to the DUI guidelines in his county that will make it tougher for drivers accused of driving under the influence to escape punishment. The changes are an attempt to reverse the rising number of DUIs, vehicular homicides and vehicular assaults in the county; to date, there have been 729 DUI arrests in the county this year, 323 more than at the same time in 2015.
Haskell also noted that over the Fourth of July holiday, police arrested 30 people for DUIs, and almost half (13) had previous DUI convictions.
Calling a DUI “an unguided missile that is one intersection away from a direct hit,” Haskell outlined his new approach to DUIs. For a start, DUI offenders will no longer be able to plead down to the lesser charge of reckless driving if their blood alcohol content registers .12 or higher. If convicted, they’ll face the tougher penalties associated with DUI, including the installation of an ignition interlock device on their vehicles for a year.
Even with a BAC below .12, drivers who want a plea will have to admit to a charge that will be considered the equivalent of a DUI if police pick them up for DUI again.
Haskell said his goal is get more DUI convictions in District Court and to require repeat offenders to serve prison time for felony DUIs.
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