Archive for Thursday, May 12, 2011

Douglas County prosecutor worries new bill might be too lenient on repeat DUI offenders

May 12, 2011, 7:43 p.m. Updated May 13, 2011, 9:45 a.m.


As Kansas House and Senate negotiators agreed this week on a bill that would strengthen the state’s DUI penalties, Douglas County’s top prosecutor worried it would be too lenient on some repeat DUI offenders.

“The change gives chronic DUI offenders a break on their criminal history,” Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson said. “Someone that would have faced significant penalties may now be facing the same sanctions as a first- or second-time offender.”

The bill, which requires all DUI offenders to use an ignition interlock device, passed both chambers with unanimous votes Thursday and awaits Gov. Sam Brownback’s signature.

Branson voiced concerns about a provision that makes July 1, 2001, the cutoff date instead of a person’s entire life when considering someone’s prior DUI history. It’s important in one sense because once a person is convicted of a third DUI, it is a felony.

Sen. Tim Owens, an Overland Park Republican and chairman of the state’s DUI Commission that has worked extensively on the bill, said the provision strikes a balance with punishing repeat offenders and an earlier period when a person’s DUI history went back only five years.

Owens said cases in the 1990s were tried and resolved differently because lawyers advised clients based on the fact their DUI history took into account only five years instead of a lifetime. Owens acknowledged having a 2001 cutoff date would affect some people who could avoid a felony conviction.

Proponents have mostly touted provisions of the DUI bill that require all people convicted of their first DUI to drive with an ignition interlock device for six months. This provision would sunset in four years without further legislative action to give state leaders a chance to assess how it is working.

The bill also includes a $250 increase in fines, increased funds for treatment of DUI offenders and a statewide central repository to track DUI offenses. Some representatives raised concerns that the bill removes a requirement that drivers permanently lose their licenses for five or more DUI convictions. But supporters say people drive drunk with or without a license. 

Branson said he worried that someone with two convictions before 2001 who is convicted of another DUI could avoid the more extensive treatment as well.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


Paula Kissinger 6 years, 10 months ago

It's going to be have the best prosecutor assigned to this unit. Let him do his job and see what happens. Besides, repeat offenders are most likely going to be apprehended several times in a 10 year period.

Sigmund 6 years, 10 months ago

I understand Branson's concern especially considering the Kansas legislature is typically dominate by the criminal defense bar, however going back 10 years does seem to strike a pretty good balance with respect to charging and sentencing. If I read the article correctly the July 1, 2001 cut off date is fixed so that time period would get longer each and every year. Still, I would want to look at the actual text of the bill instead of relying on LJWorld reporting which chronically lacks specific legal language when it discusses legislation or laws.

jafs 6 years, 10 months ago

The ignition interlock idea is a good one, but shouldn't be for only 6 months.

I would possibly combine an interlock device with mandatory assessment and treatment for alcoholism if warranted by the assessment, and continue the interlock until all required courses have been completed - education at the very least even if treatment isn't found to be necessary.

Richard Heckler 6 years, 10 months ago

"Some representatives raised concerns that the bill removes a requirement that drivers permanently lose their licenses for five or more DUI convictions. But supporters say people drive drunk with or without a license. "

So what why make it the least bit legal?

Could confiscate their cars I guess after 5 convictions or just have the engine removed.

geekin_topekan 6 years, 10 months ago

Too bad DUIs are not predominately a poor/minority behavior. We could just enact a ridiculous prison sentence and call it good.

But lots (probably more) of white people, some of them very affluent, drink and drive. So this is a very touchy situation. We would not want to imprison the wrong color person needlessly now would we?

muttonchops 6 years, 10 months ago

Should be a felony on your 2nd time driving drunk. I guess we should just wait until they cross the highway and kill a family to call it serious.

BlackVelvet 6 years, 10 months ago

A 2nd DUI/OUI/DWI should be a minimum 6 months in jail a loss of license for a min of a year. If caught driving w/o said license, it should be another 6 months, or better yet, a year in jail. After that, a minimum of 5-10 years. If you don't put them in jail, they'll drink and drive and (in some cases) KILL. period. Lock them up before they kill your family or mine.

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