Archive for Monday, September 14, 2009

Kansas DUI Commission weighing a “lifetime look back” for repeat offenders

September 14, 2009


A dispute arose Monday over how far in the past prior DUI convictions should be considered to count toward enhancing a new DUI sentence.

During a meeting of the Kansas DUI Commission, prosecutors said they want a “lifetime look back” for repeat offenders.

Karen Wittman, Kansas Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutor and an assistant attorney general, said it shouldn’t matter if a person arrested for DUI has a prior conviction from the 1970s. “It’s your criminal history,” she said and the person should be treated as a repeat offender, the same as if he or she had been convicted of burglary.

But some commission members said using decades-old DUI offenses posed problems.

Sometimes the records from those offenses are inadequate, or inconsistent from county to county, they said.

Even some current-day records lack the documentation needed to prove prior convictions, several commissioners said.

In court records, failure to check one box can make it difficult for a prosecutor to establish a prior conviction was made properly, officials said.

“You’ve got a painful history of less than adequate reporting,” said Johnson County State District Court Judge Peter Ruddick.

Steve Montgomery, of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, said coordinating all the information from the various agencies involved in DUI cases could be done, but it would be a big undertaking. “The devil does show up in the details in that kind of project,” he said.

And sometimes old convictions were made back in a time when DUI was little more than a traffic ticket, and offenders believed they could expunge those convictions from their records if they weren’t arrested for several years.

Attorney Douglas Wells said DUI shouldn’t be considered like some other criminal offenses.

“At some point you need to permit a person to rehabilitate themselves and part of their rehabilitation is to rehabilitate their record,” he said.

The commission is expected to issue a preliminary report on Kansas DUI laws before the Legislature starts its 2010 session in January, and then a final report in 2011.

Commission Chairman, state Sen. Thomas “Tim” Owens, R-Overland Park, said changing the DUI laws will require a comprehensive review. “It’s going to be a lengthy inquiry,” he said.

A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Karen Wittman's job title.


yankeevet 8 years, 2 months ago

I got a dui back in 2003; xmas party; etc..........first one and last one............3,000 court; lawyer; etc; then another 450 bucks too get the license back;........................the state be needin their money.......u know da deal

yankeevet 8 years, 2 months ago

yes; they do......i will drink too.............dat.............

KansasVoter 8 years, 2 months ago

"prosecutors said they want a “lifetime look back” for repeat offenders."

I think that's way too long considering how draconian our current DUI laws are. A five or ten year look back period is long enough.

But they're not interested in making our roads safer, this is just about raising more revenue for the state. If they were serious about road safety they'd make talking on a cell phone while driving illegal. Several studies have proven that talking on a cell phone while driving is more dangerous than driving with a 0.08 BAC. Considering the fact that nobody is even talking about outlawing talking on the phone while driving I feel confident in calling the people who want tougher DUI penalties hypocrites. The penalties for a DUI are already too tough.

Also, if you don't like what I write, don't read it. Only azzholes like China, Russia, and george w. bush censor thoughts that they don't agree with.

Practicality 8 years, 2 months ago

Life time will suffice. Who cares how long apart they are. If you get one when you are 18, then another when your 60. That should count as your second one in terms of the sentencing guidelines because it IS your second one. End of story.

gccs14r 8 years, 2 months ago

Since the records are inconsistent, they'll run afoul of the 14th Amendment. They'll have to set up a centralized nationwide reporting database and then use it going forward (good luck with that), but they're SOL on enhanced penalties for folks who got DUIs way back when.

kusp8 8 years, 2 months ago

KansasVoter (Anonymous) says… "If they were serious about road safety they'd make talking on a cell phone while driving illegal. Several studies have proven that talking on a cell phone while driving is more dangerous than driving with a 0.08 BAC."

Not to beleaguer the point, but I'm pretty sure it's actually when you're texting, not just simply talking on your phone. Regardless, you've got a decent point.

labmonkey 8 years, 2 months ago


I rarely agree with you, but I do agree 100% with your 4:43 post (although would add Obama to your censored thoughts list).

Ben McDaniel 8 years, 2 months ago

Karen Wittman doesn't work for the Shawnee County DA anymore, does she? I'm pretty sure she's at the AG's office or maybe KHP.

mickeyrat 8 years, 2 months ago

The last eight years might have been a bit more pleasant if a DUI was a disqualifier for elected office.

igby 8 years, 2 months ago

Many who think the laws are too tough will not go to court. They will drive anyway. They can buy a clunker for cash, lol, and if stopped by the cops; jump and hoof-it! No tag, No insurance, No taxes, no interlock breath gadgets;just gas it an go!

If too drunk to run? Just stay in jail and Branson's office will not file charges and let you go again. Lol.

kusp8 8 years, 2 months ago

I'll preface this by saying I'm not old enough to remember when a DUI "was little more than a traffic ticket, and... could expunge ... from their records if they weren’t arrested for several years."

Nonetheless, this seems almost an ex post facto (retroactive law). Furthermore, I agree with the above comments on the fairness of implementing a uniform law where uniformity in the law hasn't existed.

First, the ex post facto aspect... The Constitution prevents the Federal government from passing ex post facto laws (Article 1, Section 9) and prohibits States from passing ex post facto law in Section 10. There have been very, very few cases in which the court has sided with either the Federal of State governments in the upholding of these laws. The most notable exception is the 'Adam Walsh Child Protection Safety Act' of 2006 in which sex offenders were required to post their location on the internet, even if the offender was convicted and finished their sentence before the new law went into effect. Therefore, I cannot imagine the Supreme Court upholding a challenge to this law, which most certainly will occur, on Constitutional grounds prohibiting ex post facto.

The issue of uniformity in applying DUI laws and somehow coalescing them into an acceptable database presents its own issues. For example, If I had been given a ticket for DUI with the option of expunging it from my record, I would have taken advantage of expunging it from my record asap. So, how would it be fair to allow the state to renege on its agreement to expunge it from my record years down the road? (Still staying in the hypothetical) Potentially, this could effect my employment and my driving rights/privileges years after completing, and/or paying, my debt to society. In addition, how would it be fair for a person living in a town without an effective, or uniform, record-keeping process to be able to not have their record notated under the new law as opposed to the person whose town did/does have effective or uniform record-keeping process to be punished?

This law seems full of holes and inevitable court challenges.

Having said all of that, I would be more than willing to make an exception for the following; a loop-back law that only applied to people whose DUI resulted in the injury of either another occupant in their vehicle, a pedestrian, occupant of the other vehicle, or any other bystander.

Just my two cents.

grimpeur 8 years, 2 months ago

The DUI laws need to be toughened and the diversions, license buy-backs, etc., ended. Anyone who gets one at 21 and another at 22 (or 41) is a repeat drunk driver, so that's more reason to revoke the license.

yankeevet, you were allowed to buy your license back? How does that work? That's a problem with DUI convicts and repeat moving violators alike. These people need to be taken off the road, not allowed to buy their privileges back after demonstrating their poor judgment, disregard for the law and other road users, and unfitness to drive on public roadways.

You think DUI laws are too tough? Need your car for work? Does your family depend on your job? Then maybe you better think about that before you get behind the wheel.

ku_tailg8 8 years, 2 months ago

I don't think they should look back over a lifetime. Maybe 5 to 10 years like one of you said. I've never had a DUI but I'm sure there were times I could've gotten one. My problem with the whole DUI thing is how they decided .08% BAC is the standard. I have seen people trashed after 2 drinks and I wouldn't trust them to walk to the restroom. I have seen the opposite as well. I guess you have to set a standard somewhere but alcohol effects people differently especially if you are on medication. I would like to see harsher penalties for those over the .15% range.

mdfraz 8 years, 2 months ago

chuckabee, my understanding of "ex post facto" is that it is geared more toward preventing the criminalization of an act after it has occurred, and then punishing someone for something that wasn't a crime at the time they committed it. That is not the case here. DUI has been a crime probably since the time people started driving, and this law does not make that activity unlawful when it had been lawful before. What this simply does is recognizes a DUI in 1963 (or whatever year way back when) is now considered when sentencing for a current DUI. It was still a crime back in 1963, so it's not really ex post facto.

The problems do exist in that record keeping was often shoddy (and still is in some places), the elements of the crime may not have been exactly the same through time, and trying to accumulate all of the 40, 50, 60+ year old convictions would be a monumental undertaking for Kansas convictions, let alone out of state convictions. If you don't ensure that everyone's prior convictions are counted, you may indeed run into equal protection issues. Even if the idea is good in theory, the practical implementation of it would be difficult.

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