Legislature(2009 - 2010)BELTZ 105 (TSBldg)
03/12/2010 01:30 PM Senate JUDICIARY
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SB 239-IGNITION INTERLOCK DEVICES/DUI/CHEM. TEST 1:59:24 PM CHAIR FRENCH announced the consideration of SB 239. SENATOR MCGUIRE moved to adopt work draft committee substitute (CS) for SB 239, labeled 26-LS1210\S, as the working document. There being no objection, version S was before the committee. 2:00:07 PM SENATOR KEVIN MEYER, Sponsor of SB 239, said that two years ago he worked to get legislation passed pertaining to ignition interlock devices as part of sentencing for driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol. The law has been in place for over a year and he has discovered that this effective tool hasn't been used as often as anticipated. He reported that in 2009 there were 3,513 court ordered installations, yet only 218 ignition interlock devices were installed. This should be a concern for everyone, particularly since it has been proven that these devices do keep people who have been drinking from starting the car and driving, he said. SB 239 specifies the time period in which the ignition interlock device would be needed correlated to the sentencing for the various offenses. For the first time DUI the interlock device would be required for six months. The bill also lists installation of an ignition interlock device as a condition of sentencing that could not be suspended. He noted that the previous bill made this an option, which was a mistake. 2:03:02 PM SENATOR COGHILL asked if contractors could handle the increased capacity if these devices were mandated as a part of sentencing for DUI cases. SENATOR MEYER replied during the initial bill hearings two vendors indicated that they would not have a problem meeting the need. CHRISTINE MARASIGAN, Staff to Senator Meyer, added that those two providers contacted the sponsor's office recently to say that it doesn't work to have probation and the ignition interlock device tied because people were either waiting out their probation so that they didn't have to have the ignition interlock installed or they weren't getting the device put on in the first place if their probation was in any way suspended. The providers indicated that they could be doing a lot more installations. We took that into consideration when we looked at separating the two, she said. SENATOR COGHILL questioned how installations and management would be handled in the less populated and rural areas of the state. MS. MARASIGAN replied the original bill provided exemptions to accommodate people who don't have access to these services. This has not changed. SENATOR COGHILL asked if the two vendors have had any trouble keeping the devices working in extreme cold weather. He noted that was a concern when the bill passed initially. 2:06:34 PM SENATOR MEYER said they've found that most of the court-ordered ignition interlock installations have been in Fairbanks, and they appear to work fine in cold weather. CHAIR FRENCH noted the repealed subsection (r) and asked if the source of the problem was that the different probation periods allowed people to escape the ignition interlock requirement. MS. MARASIGAN said Mr. Wooliver highlighted that language when the sponsor began talking about decoupling the requirement for an ignition interlock from probation. What has happened is that people on probation for DUI would decide not to drive so they wouldn't get an ignition interlock or they wouldn't get one if their probation period didn't match the time requirement for the ignition interlock. Nor would it be a part of their sentence, she said. 2:08:41 PM SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI expressed appreciation that the sponsor was attempting to fix the problem and said he supported the bill. CHAIR FRENCH agreed and restated the stunning disparity between the court orders versus the installations. SENATOR COGHILL said he wonders if the low numbers reflect that some Anchorage judges are ordering chemical treatment for those convicted of DUIs. SENATOR MEYER suggested the committee ask Mr. Wooliver why ignition interlock devices aren't used much in Anchorage. Perhaps it's because the judges are ordering other programs, but that's obviously where most of the DUIs occur, he said. MS. MARASIGAN reiterated that some people who have been convicted of DUI simply opt not to drive. SENATOR MEYER said the intention here is to keep people from driving when they're drinking. Opting not to drive at all is just fine. 2:10:41 PM CHRIS CELL, Lieutenant, Alaska Peace Officers Association (APOA), said she represents about 900 Alaskans statewide, many of whom are charged with picking up the pieces after drunk driving accidents. She said they would like to do less of this, which is why APOA supports SB 239, which requires interlock ignition devices as a mandatory part of DUI sentences. 2008 National Highway Transportation Safety Board statistics show that someone in the U.S. is killed in a drunk driving crash once every 45 minutes so any tool that helps to keep drunk drivers off the road and holds them accountable for their actions would be helpful. LIEUTENANT CELL said law enforcement is particularly interested in reforming and deterring those persons who become "hard core" drunk drivers. These are drivers who are found to be driving with a blood alcohol level that is twice the legal limit. A 2005 survey of these drivers indicated that hard core drunk drivers believe that their actions would have been changed had more severe penalties been imposed for earlier offenses. 70 percent of the hard core drunk drivers surveyed said they believe that the requirement for an ignition interlock device would have changed their drunk driving. We should listen to these people, she said. 2:12:43 PM DAVID BROWER, Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division, Department of Law (DOL), said he is an Alaska traffic safety resource prosecutor and he sees that tying the requirement for an ignition interlock to the time of probation can be a problem depending on the length of the sentence. He related that the probation period for a first time DUI is long enough to have an ignition interlock and there's probably enough time on a second DUI, but even though every felony DUI judgment has a requirement for an ignition interlock device, he suspects that there have been no felony DUI people who have ever gotten one. MR. BROWER said a lot of what this bill does is to put all ignition interlock issues and sentencing issues for DUI in Title 28, the drunk driving statute. When it [only] referred to AS 12.25.102, the judge could either sentence somebody as a condition of probation or as a condition of sentence. In this case it would be a condition of sentence, he said. SENATOR COGHILL asked if many of the 3,513 court ordered ignition interlock devices were part of a sentence for felony DUI. MR. BROWER said felony DUIs are included in that number, but that's not the only reason for the disparity. Some of the other reasons include people who are on probation for 2 years and don't want to get an ignition interlock device. The assumption is that they decide to wait two years so that they no longer need an ignition interlock device. This bill amends that so that once a person gets their license back they would have to have an ignition interlock installed for a certain period of time. But it would be a fallacy to think that people who have revoked licenses don't drive because most of them do. "Repeat drunk drivers, as a general rule, do not have a license and I think that most people with a felony DUI have been driving without a license," he said. 2:17:23 PM SENATOR COGHILL said his reason for asking was to find out how many of those 3,513 court orders may not have been mandated because it was a felony DUI and it was understood that they did not have a right to drive. MR. BROWER said the way the statute is currently written everyone gets an ignition interlock order as a condition when they regain the privilege to drive. That doesn't change in this bill. He said he doesn't know how many people haven't yet become eligible for an ignition interlock or even a license. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI asked if there is data indicating that this reduces recidivism. MR. BROWER replied there isn't any data from Alaska, but a study of other states indicates that there is benefit. A recent National Transportation Safety Administration report said that while ignition interlocks are on they work, but once they've been removed people tend to fall back into their old patterns. SENATOR WIELECHOWSKI said the data that was presented for the initial bill was impressive and it weighed heavily in his support. He stressed the importance of making decisions that are based on evidence and science and suggested that DOL and the Court System should be interested in tracking this to know whether or not this policy is working. My guess is that it will have huge positive impacts, he added. MR. BROWER said that will be done. He added that this bill doesn't change the current law so much as it cleans it up to ensure that more people get ignition interlocks installed. 2:20:28 PM CHAIR FRENCH said he's still a bit puzzled because he thought the law had been written in a manner to allow judges to not impose an ignition interlock as a condition of sentence, but the sponsor said that a judge ordered an ignition interlock 3,513 times in 2009. There seems to be a disconnect between the court orders and the number installed and it seems to be related to the fact that a lot of people are saying they just won't drive while they're on probation. He asked if it's really the case that 3,300 Alaskans are waiting out the ignition interlock period or if there are other answers. MR. BROWER replied that doesn't seem reasonable, but he doesn't have any other answers. CHAIR FRENCH observed that this will do away with the ability for people to wait out their probation period during which they would be required to have an ignition interlock. This says a person with a DUI has to get an ignition interlock for six months when they get their license back. 2:23:06 PM KERRY HENNINGS, Driver Licensing Manager, Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV), Department of Administration, introduced herself. CHAIR FRENCH asked what, if anything, DMV will do to ensure that a person who has lost their license because of a DUI gets an ignition interlock when they apply to get their license back. MS. HENNINGS replied DMV's current practice won't change. When someone applies for a limited privilege or to regain their privilege and there is an ignition interlock order in place, DMV requires proof of installation. CHAIR FRENCH asked how DMV would know that an ignition interlock order is in place. MS. HENNINGS replied that comes in on the DUI judgment and the record is annotated upon receipt. CHAIR FRENCH asked what happens if a person applies to get their license back and says they don't have a car. MS. HENNINGS explained that if someone comes in to apply for limited privileges they need to have a designated vehicle to put the ignition interlock on. She added that DMV also can issue identification cards in lieu of a license. 2:26:01 PM SENATOR COGHILL said he'd like to know if there have been any challenges to this because he can see that someone who uses the same vehicle might say that they are being treated unfairly. CHAIR FRENCH asked Mr. Wooliver if he knows of any problem that the Court System has with respect to issuing ignition interlock orders. DOUG WOOLIVER, Administrative Attorney, Alaska Court System, said he isn't aware of any problems associated with issuing the orders, but he is aware that part of the reason for the bill is to make changes like not suspending an ignition interlock device. CHAIR FRENCH asked if he has any feedback to offer from the judges' perspective. MR. WOOLIVER said judges hear that it can be expensive but he is unaware of any implementation difficulties other than the practical aspects of a harsh sentence that is sometimes difficult for people to meet. He added that he was stunned to learn that less than 10 percent of the people who were ordered to get an ignition interlock actually have them. 2:29:20 PM CHAIR FRENCH closed public testimony and announced he would hold SB 239 in committee.