California DUI Bill Stalls Over Costs

Legislation drafted to increase the penalty for driving under the influence in California has stalled in committee over anticipated costs associated with the bill. The measure drafted by Assemblyman Jerry Hill would give judges the authority to permanently revoke the driver’s licenses of those convicted of a third DUI offense. It would also allow authorities to review a person’s entire driving history rather than being limited to a 10-year look-back period, and assign jail sentences accordingly.

A consultant has reviewed the bill and estimates it would cost taxpayers at minimum $11 million and potentially as much as $28 million. The bulk of the costs would be associated with the need to expand California’s already crowded prison system. The proposed DUI measure comes at a time when the federal government has ordered California to reduce its prison population. To comply, the state has released inmates incarcerated for lesser crimes, like drug possession, theft and DUI in California.

Under current state law a motorists found guilty of drunk driving in California is subject to a jail sentence, beginning with a first offense. Typically, an offender is offered court ordered treatment programs before being sent to jail. The potential jail term increases with each additional offense within 10 years, and a fourth offense is filed as a felony.

Opponents of the license revocation bill say that it will remove a very influential incentive for drunk driving offenders to enter an alcohol or substance abuse treatment program. Research shows a drop in recidivism for drunk driving when an offender is required to complete a treatment program before being licensed to drive again.

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