Archive for Friday, July 13, 2007

Stricter DUI laws now in effect in Kansas

Drivers with .15 blood alcohol concentration will have licenses suspended for a year

July 13, 2007


DUI punishments

For first offenses:

¢ .02 blood alcohol concentration - Zero Tolerance law for minors.

Suspended license for 30 days and restricted (can only drive to school or work and home) for 330 days.

¢ .08 - Suspended license for 30 days, restricted for 330.

¢ .15 - One year suspended license followed by one year of driving with an ignition interlock device. Offender must pay $165 for the device and installation.

Upon a second or third conviction, the device is still mandatory. A judge could mandate that it be installed for two, three or four years depending on the number of prior DUI offenses.

The third DUI is a felony no matter what level the BAC. After five or more, the license is permanently removed.

Seven one-hundredths of a point many not seem like much when it comes to blood alcohol concentration, but now it can be the difference between 30 days or one year for a suspended license.

But that's not all.

The Kansas Legislature passed tougher DUI penalties, which took effect July 1. Provisions of the .08 blood alcohol concentration, the state's legal limit, will remain in effect. That's a 30-day suspended license followed by a 330-day restricted license.

But now, if a driver is pulled over and has a BAC of .15 percent or greater, his license will be suspended for one year. After the suspension, the offender must pay to install an ignition interlock device in his car that will remain for another year.

The device is a built-in Breathalyzer calibrated to read the offender's breath. If a person fails the test, the car will not start. Success on the first try means the driver will be subject to a random test in the following 20 minutes. An incessant honking horn will give away a failed test while driving.

Also new is that anyone under age 21 who is driving drunk will be subject to the punishments for a .15 or greater BAC.

More penalties

"For a number of years now, the average BAC of those persons driving under the influence has been about .16," said Michele Reese, program administrator for the Kansas Drunk Driving Prevention office in Topeka. "These new laws for the higher BAC are aimed at getting those who habitually drink and drive to be penalized."

There were 3,210 alcohol-related crashes in Kansas last year, and 99 of those were fatal, Reese said.

State Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, voted for the bill to enhance penalties, but he doesn't think it's adequate. He'd rather see more effective treatment options for repeat offenders, but he also doesn't think the Legislature should have stopped at .15 percent.

"I'm disappointed that we didn't pass an approach whereby people who have a significantly higher BAC are subject to some enhanced penalties," Davis said. "The Legislature elected not to take that approach."

One reason the Legislature didn't seek further penalties is because of the concern for county jail populations, which are already at a maximum, he said.

'Too strict'

Chris Bortz, assistant bureau chief for the traffic safety division of the Kansas Department of Transportation, said Kansas is following many other states. He said the federal government has been pushing for the harsher laws with the incentive of additional funding if certain laws are in place.

For Lawrence resident Elaine Magill, 57, it doesn't matter what the BAC levels are because if the .08 percent limit doesn't curb drunken driving, then .15 percent won't either, she said.

"You know they're trying to get kids," she said. "I think it's too strict. Younger kids are going to drink not thinking about the consequences."

Two Kansas University students believe differently.

Jackie Wittlinger, 20, of Olathe, said there are too many options in Lawrence for Kansas University students to take advantage of, such as Safe Ride and walking, rather than driving while impaired.

"At 20, we think we're against the police, but with a DUI, it comes down to saving lives," Wittlinger said.

Her friend, Matty Price, 20, of Chicago, said, "If you're dumb enough to get a DUI, you should have some sort of repercussion."

As far as the ignition interlock device, Price said she suspects people may try to get around it, such as by driving a friend's car.

Ignition interlock

Jerry Gentry, operations manager for Kansas Ignition Interlock, contracted with Harris Auto Repair Inc., 811 E. 23rd, to install the interlock devices.

"I've done this for 18 years for the state of Kansas," Gentry said. "A lot of it is experience. I have had people that have tampered with it but caught them because the interlock will show a power disconnect."

Offenders pay for the $65 device and $100 for installation, he said. They also have to return their vehicle every 60 days to have the device recalibrated, according to state law.

The device is set to read .04, half the state's legal limit. Gentry said an offender has three chances to give a sober breath test. After failing those, the device locks them out for about 30 minutes before they can try again.

"You have to blow and hum at same time so you can't use some bogus air sample like compressed air or a balloon," he said.

He said a microprocessor records the exact day, date and time of the breath test and establishes a driving pattern, whether a vehicle is moving or not, and power connects or disconnects. The recorded information is passed on to district or municipal courts.

"The interlock is not a panacea for drinking and driving, but it does help in the fight against drinking and driving," Gentry said.


Dixie Jones 10 years, 10 months ago

what about the ones who have 4 DUI's numerous other violations no DL no insurance and still drive and kill my best friend and her unborn child.. killed her in Jan and was out of jail by Easter. Never have understood how he did that, but then again i guess MONEY TALKS...

imastinker 10 years, 10 months ago

why not leave the ignition device installed for people that blow over .15 or repeat offenders for the rest of their life? This is still not enough. DUI's kill so many people, and people seem to ignore it until they see it firsthand.

oldvet 10 years, 10 months ago

If they really wanted to have an effective deterent, they would adopt the model many European countries use... 30 days in jail and 1 year suspension for the first offense, 1 year in jail and 3 year suspension for the second offense, no diversion, no plea bargain. I have been with groups in several countries and the designated driver is really taken serious... that person was only drinking water or soda. Other times the group used taxis to get around and to get home. These mechanical lock devices are nice but I'll bet the internet will soon be flooded with all the ways to get around them.

Joe Hyde 10 years, 10 months ago

I did a Google search for "personal breathalyzers". If the information is correct, a Dept. of Transportation-approved personal alcohol monitor can be had for as little as $16.00? That's pretty cheap insurance against suffering an accident or a DUI arrest.

Owning a personal monitor would give you (and friends you're partying with) a digital readout that links how good you are feeling at any given moment with how high your blood alcohol content is. Most useful for teaching you to interpret your body's own signals.

This said, I still think that raising the national drinking age to 21 was one of the worst public safety moves in our nation's history. When I was in high school and college the legal drinking age in Kansas was 18. Raising it to 21 overnight turned every high school senior, every college freshman, sophomore and many college juniors into criminals if they drank a beer.

Remember now, young people can vote at age 18. They can buy a car, get married, join the military (or get drafted into the military), they can buy a firearm, start up a business. But they can't buy a beer? The national drinking age got raised to 21 by president Reagen, who threatened the states with a complete cutoff of federal highway funds if they didn't comply.

But young people don't care about mean-spirited politicians; young people want them to party! So what we have now in America is illegal partying. Kids are forced now to secure large amounts of beer illegaly (because they can't get it legally, and at will).

Then instead of exercising moderation they drink up their alcohol all at once (because they can't be caught possessing it). Then they throw their cans and bottles out the car window (because they can't be caught with alcohol trashs). Then they drive home from their parties after drinking too much.

The national 21-age drinking law is "training" our younger adults to become exactly what we did not want: binge-drinking, litter-throwing drunk drivers. How's that for "Family Values"?

bige1030 10 years, 10 months ago

oldvet: "One reason the Legislature didn't seek further penalties is because of the concern for county jail populations, which are already at a maximum, he said." No space means no harsh jail terms for DUI offenders, and even if sentenced to jail, they won't spend nearly that amount of time there. We'd have to build more jails if we were to toughen the jail time for DUI.

riverat: I highly agree. If 18-year-olds were allowed to drink legally, things would definitely be better. College partying might lose its steam a bit because the "forbidden fruit" allure is gone. I've seen stories on here saying that the Oread neighborhood was not as noisy when the drinking age used to be 18 than it is now.

blessed3x 10 years, 10 months ago

In many states, if you get caught purchasing or selling drugs from a vehicle, that vehicle is forfeit. I would like to see the same thing with drunk driving along with suspension of driver's licenses and LONG mandatory jail sentences. Drive drunk, loose your freedom, loose your license, loose your car.

TheGoldenBoy 10 years, 10 months ago

There are times when I just have to laugh. Now that we have a total fool named Phil Kline for our state attorney general, he is having an even less intelligent state legislature enacting all of these new get tough laws for people who have been convicted of DUI.

I realize that drinking and driving is a problem but the bottom line is that there is no quick fix. In fact, I'm not even sure if that is his intention. He is probably just trying to score points with the voters.

To make matters even worse, I'm not so sure that these new laws with have any proactive effect towards detering potential offenders. Alcohol consumption is to well entrenched in american society. Not to mention the screwed up message goverment is always trying send to young people telling them that drugs and bad but alcohol is acceptable.

Once recent case, that I found interesting was the one concerning the Olathe women who arrested for DUI and taken to a hospital so the police could obtain involutarily obtain a blood sample from her. The Olathe Police claimed to have an "oral search warrant" for the blood sample. Hmmm.....I didn't think there such a thing as an oral search warrant. Apparently they held her down and forcibly took a blood sample from her. Talk about civil rights violations!

Now Kline wants to pass a law that will require medical personnel who work in the emergency room at hospitals to hold the person down and do it for them. There even including a provision in the law that will allow a police officer to arrest a healthcare worker if they refuse to participate.

I don't think this is right. People who work in healthcare are in the bussiness of helping people and saving lives. Not engaging in activities that might harm a person. Most hospitals and clinics are known for being very prestigious and strive to maintain respectability. I don't feel they should be subjected to threats from law enforcment just because they don't want to participate in a barbaric act that might harm someone. Not to mention the fact that they don't need someone filing a lawsuit against them and the hospital they work at. Healthcare workers are educated, professional people who strive to maintain good reputations. The deserve to be treated with respect.

blessed3x 10 years, 10 months ago

Hey, GoldenBoy, the whole bashing on Kline as attorney general thing worked best WHEN HE WAS ACTUALLY ATTORNEY GENERAL!! If you have a problem with it, take it up with Morrison.

imastinker 10 years, 10 months ago

Further, you don't need a search warrant to check for DUI. All you need is probable cause.

Hoots 10 years, 10 months ago

Yeah, I was going to Lawrence High when they changed the drinking age too. Over night it went from kids drinking a few beers to kids drinking the hard stuff. Why mess with just getting beer when a bottle of Vodka or Jack is just as easy to get and goes further. The kids got much drunker, drinking got more out of control, and a bunch of idiot politicos once again made something worse through bad legislation. The places I have seen the fewest problems with alcohol are the places with the fewest restricions. Those are the cultures that seem to do the best job of teaching responsible drinking habits. Funny to see a 9 year old drinking a beer at lunch with his parents at a cafe in Munich but it works when it comes to teaching moderation.

TheGoldenBoy 10 years, 10 months ago


Thanks for the reply. I don't think that more laws we mean fewer offenses either. Look forward to hearing more from you in the future.

Rationalanimal 10 years, 10 months ago

Most of you on here belly ache about gun crimes, but when it comes to drunk driving, which kills way more Americans every year than gun related deaths, its all about rationalization and excuses. Heaven forbid we touch the sacred American bottle. And that is precisely the heart of the problem with drunk driving in our culture. We pass laws and because it is such a major problem, especially among lawyers, judges and police officers who enforce the law, the laws don't seem to get enforced with vigor. A law is only as good as the integrity of the society.

TheGoldenBoy 10 years, 10 months ago

Hey blessed,

Thanks for the heads-up. I'm always getting Kline confused with Morrison. I guess its because they've ran against each other. Do you agree with anything I've said though?

blessed3x 10 years, 10 months ago

I don't know GoldenBoy. It's been my experience that more laws very seldom equals fewer offenses. However, if you don't do something to get that blood test, the offender can just tell the officers to kiss off until he sobers up and then we'll never get any convictions. Maybe if the general public weren't such idiotic asses (present company excluded, of course) this wouldn't even be an issue.

knownasb 10 years, 10 months ago

I am so sorry to hear of your friend Peaches. It doesn't do much good to take a drivers license away from a person who apparently had no respect for the law to begin with.

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