Delaware lawmakers target DUI offenders in proposed legislation

(file/NewsWorks)

(file/NewsWorks)

Delaware lawmakers are moving forward with three pieces of legislation aimed at reforming how the state handles DUI offenders.

Rep. Pete Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach, recently introduced House Bill 415, to crack down on drivers with multiple DUI convictions.

The bill, which passed the House Safety and Homeland Security Committee earlier this week, would ensure that felony traffic offenses would be covered under Delaware’s Truth Sentencing statute.

Under the current law, those convicted for those offenses can have their sentences modified by the Board of Parole.

“This bill will help address repeat drunk-driving offenders. We all see the stories about a fifth, sixth or even seventh DUI. People ask us how come these people aren’t serving more time behind bars, and part of that is the sentencing,” said Rep. Schwartzkopf, D-Rehoboth Beach. “By putting these traffic felonies under Truth in Sentencing, we will ensure that people who are arrested for multiple DUIs serve their time and are held accountable for their repeated dangerous actions.”

Ignition interlocks and substance treatment programs

In an effort to curb drunken driving recidivism, House Bill 212, would require all convicted DUI offenders to install an ignition interlock in their vehicles. Similar to a breathalyzer, the device tests the driver’s blood alcohol level and does not allow the car to start if the driver has been drinking.

Under the terms of the legislation, a first-time offender would be required to use the interlock device for a minimum of four months. Those with more than one conviction would be given a longer term of use.

More than 20 states have implemented similar legislation.

Mother’s Against Drunk Driving has lobbied in support of the bill. The legislation cleared the House earlier this week and now heads to the Senate.

The third piece of legislation, Senate Bill 260, would allow those who plead guilty to DUI charges to voluntarily participate in an alcohol or substance abuse treatment program.

Senate President Pro Tem Patricia Blevins, D-Elsmere, who sponsored the bill, explained that those who complete the program through the Court of Common Pleas would be able to earn back their driving privileges.

“This is a great incentive for people to become sober and start to turn their lives around,” Blevins said.

Under the legislation, participants would have to agree to have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicle. Participants would also be under strict supervision and receive aids like anti-alcohol skin patches.

The program would last a minimum of nine months and would accept 50 participants at a time.

The legislation passed the state Senate unanimously on Thursday.

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