DUI bill passes House

TOPEKA — Senate Bill 6, which strengthens penalties for DUIs by creating a system to better track offenders and requiring first-time offenders to use interlock devices, passed the House today.

A few people spoke out against the measure, saying they were concerned about removing a requirement that licenses for drivers with five or more DUIs are revoked.

In response, legislators supporting the bill said people drive drunk with or without a license. And they said that there were too many good aspects of the bill to not pass it.

A critical piece of the bill is a central repository that law enforcement, prosecutors and judges will use to access records on drivers. Sometimes they don’t know how many times a driver has been convicted of a DUI. That was the case in 2008 fatal accident in which a drunken driver crashed into a 4-year-old girl and her mother in Wichita while they were crossing the street to go to school.

Funding for the repository was in question a few weeks ago, but the Kansas Department of Transportation juggled its budget to find $2.5 million for it. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation will oversee the repository.

The bill also requires first-time offenders to install an interlock device in their vehicle for at least six months. The devices measure a driver’s breath alcohol level, and if the driver doesn’t blow a clean test, his or her car won’t start.

The devices will be mandatory for six months for first-time offenders and for 12 months for first-time offenders who have been convicted of an open container violation, had a very higher breath alcohol level when stopped by law enforcement or had three or more moving traffic violations in a year.