Penalties And Driving Drunk
Measures will be sent to a House Courts of Justice Committee, which is dominated by defense attorneys. In the past, that committee has shown little sympathy for mandatory sentencing bills that restrict a lawyer's plea bargaining ability.
"If the public outcry is loud enough, even that committee will respond to it," says Del. James Almond (D-Arlington), a former prosecutor and a member of the committee. Defense lawyers in the Maryland legislature also have opposed mandatory sentencing bills.
Shackleton's bill in the District to reduce the blood alcohol level needed for a presumption of drunkenness was introduced two weeks ago. No organized opposition has developed to drunk driving penalties, which does not change drunken driving penalties in the city, where a first conviction brings a mandatory license suspension and a possible $500 fine or six months in jail.
District police also have reinstated a $135,000 federally financed program to pay for special D.C. police teams to monitor drivers' alcohol levels on certain weekends.
First offenders in Virginia, under Canada's bill, would either go to jail for 48 hours or lose their license for 90 days as a mandatory minimum sentence. Under present Virginia law, drunk drivers can receive sentences up to six months in jail and drunk driving penalties of $500. If convicted drivers refused to enter the state's Alcohol Safety Action Program (ASAP), licenses would be suspended for six months to a year.
A second conviction would carry a minimum jail sentence of 14 days, a fine of $500 to $1,000, mandatory attendance at ASAP for a year and the suspension of a driver's license for a year.
Upon a third conviction for driving while intoxicated, the driver would receive a minimum jail sentence of six months, a $1,000 fine and the suspension of his or her driver's license for three years.
Under current Maryland law, a driver is considered under the influence if he has a .08 alcohol level in his blood. Conviction for that offense now carries a fine of up to $500 and as long as two months in jail. A .13 alcohol level is now considered strong evidence, but not absolute proof that a person is driving while intoxicated. For driving while intoxicated, a conviction now carries a maximum $1,000 fine and one year in jail for a first offense and $1,000 and two years in jail for a second offense.