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Washington lawmaker vows DUI measure will pass in special session

The prime sponsor of toughened DUI measures says he’s confident state lawmakers will approve a significant overhaul of drunk driving laws when they return to Olympia for a special session in two weeks.

The Legislature ended the regular session in frustrating fashion with a number of issues, including the budget, unresolved. But Rep. Roger Goodman (D-Kirkland), tells the Luke Burbank Show Monday that lawmakers have reached tentative agreement on toughening DUI measures.

“Everybody wants to reduce the carnage on the roadways and the provisions of the bill are terrific, it’s just that we need the funding for it,” Goodman says.

The new measures include requiring anyone arrested for suspicion of DUI remain in jail until they see a judge. Once released, a driver would have to install an ignition-interlock device and certify it to the court within five days.

Goodman says such a requirement could have prevented the drunk driver who allegedly smashed into a family crossing the street in Seattle’s Wedgewood neighborhood, killing two, from driving.

“He flaunted every court order, but there wasn’t this requirement to certify to the court that you’ve done it,” Goodman says of Mark Mullan, 50. Mullan had been driving with a suspended license and he had ignored a court order from a prior arrest to install an interlock device.

“You’ve got to back to the court and say ‘I’ve put this device in the car.’ The Department of Licensing will know, the sheriff will know, the court will know,” explains Goodman.

The compromise agreement also calls for increasing prison time for a second and third DUI, but it allows drivers to avoid incarceration by seeking substance abuse treatment instead.

Goodman insists while it’s important to get repeat drunk drivers off the road, getting them into treatment is far more effective than simply putting them behind bars for longer.

“These people, the moment they get out, are going to drive drunk again because they have a disease,” he says. “If you’re an alcoholic, you’re totally irrational getting behind the wheel of a car. But if you’re given a choice between treatment or jail they choose treatment.”

The new proposals also make a fourth DUI conviction a felony, rather than the fifth under current law. And they require daily alcohol monitoring in lieu of jail time. Several more ambitious proposals including a ten-year ban on buying alcohol for three time offenders championed by Goodman, Gov. Jay Inslee and many other supporters were taken out of the bill over concerns about cost and enforceability

The biggest stumbling block to passing the new measures is finding the money to pay for it.

While the proposals don’t have a price tag yet, Goodman admits it’ll cost at least “tens of millions.” But he says the pending health care reform act will funnel significant funding for substance abuse treatment to the state.

“I am determined we are going to pass the toughest and smartest DUI reform in the country this year and we’re going to do it in the special session,” says Goodman.

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