Missouri governor Jay Nixon signed drunk driving legislation that will attempt to guide DUI offenders into alcohol treatment programs, and to strengthen punishment for repeat offenders, the Columbia Missourian is reporting.
According to Nixon, the legislation will make roads safer and make the drunk driving laws across the state more uniform. In the final days of legislative session there was little dissent from fellow lawmakers over a bill that will make drastically change Missouri DUI laws.
“This should mean that fewer families will have to answer a knock at the door in the middle of the night and learn that a loved one’s life has been cut short by a drunk driver,” Nixon said of the legislation.
The legislation will require trials for anyone with two or more DUI convictions to go to state trial courts instead of local municipal courts.
It also puts in place the means for law enforcement to standardize reporting DUI offenses to a statewide database. Reporting is already a requirement, but the legislation will require compliance certification to apply for grants.
The bill will also push alcohol treatment for repeat offenders and for those whose blood-alcohol content measures two times the legal limit. Also, trial courts will, under the bill, be able to set up DUI courts that combine supervision, drug testing, monitoring and treatment – all paid for by offenders.
The current legal guidelines for DUI came under scrutiny recently when a report from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch showed that the state was having trouble keeping track of just how many prior offenses DUI-convicted motorists had on the books. There were also a large number of cases in which plea bargains kept cases off the books.
The new DUI legislation was created in response to the outcry that resulted from these reports.
Around 35,000 people were arrested for DUI in Missouri in 2009. There have been 9,000 DUI arrests already this year. Over a quarter of the fatal car accidents in the state in 2008 involved alcohol, as well as 5 percent of all motor vehicle accidents.
“It shows our Missouri citizens that we are moving in the right direction,” said Missouri for Mothers Against Drunk Driving victim services manager Phaedra Olsen of the legislation.