SADD Student Against Drunk Driving
The new sadd student against drunk driving law rescinds a provision that has allowed offenders to avoid conviction by completing a state-run alcohol education course. The final version, however, is still weaker than the original legislation backed by the MADD and SADD groups. That bill would have required a jail term for the first drunken-driving conviction. Sen. A. Joe Canada (R-Virginia Beach), who sponsored that measure, accused the defense lawyers who dominate the House Courts of Justice Committee of scuttling his bill.
But citizen activists say they aren't disappointed. They didn't go down there with a strong feeling that they would conquer the world the first time around, adding it was the first venture into politics for most of those who lobbied the issue.
But many legislators, say it won't be easy to keep the momentum of the successful crusade going. Obviously, these groups are formed for a specific purpose. If that is achieved, they have to change their cause or die. MADD and SADD organizations have a strong incentive to stay alive.
A D.C. City Council committee has approved a measure that would strengthen the city's laws against drunken driving and modify the penalty structure for persons convicted of driving while intoxicated. The bill defines a blood alcohol level of .10--a level achieved by consumption of about five ounces of liquor in an hour's time--as absolute proof of drunkenness.
Present law defines that level as representing only a presumption of drunkenness that must be proved in court. The bill, approved by the committee on transportation and environmental affairs, would change the range of penalties that could be imposed for drunken driving. The penalty for a first offense would be reduced from a maximum of six months in jail and a $500 fine to a maximum of three months and a $300 fine.
A council staff member said the lesser penalty was seen as a possible inducement for prosecutors, who sometimes are reluctant to seek a harsh penalty for first offenders, to prosecute more drunken driving cases rather than allow first-offender suspects to plead guilty to a lesser offense.
The bill, introduced by Polly Shackleton (D-Ward 3) and cosponsored by Jerry A. Moore (R-At Large), would increase the maximum possible penalty for a second offense to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine. Present law allows a maximum sentence of a year's imprisonment amd a $1,000 fine. A third conviction under the proposed bill could lead to imposition of a term of a year in jail and a $10,000 fine.