Agreement on DUI corrections funds reached

TOPEKA — State budget negotiators agreed Tuesday to spend $1.5 million for community corrections for DUI offenders — welcome news to supporters of a bill that strengthens penalties for drinking and driving.

That funding, combined with a $250 increase in fines, should pay for the community corrections necessary to better monitor people who have had multiple DUIs, Rep. Pat Colloton, R-Leawood, said.

Senate Bill 6 is expected to be considered in both chambers on Thursday.

If the bill passes both houses and is signed by Gov. Sam Brownback, Kansas will join 11 other states that require interlock devices for all DUIs, including for first-time offenders. Interlocks test a driver's alcohol level. If the driver fails to blow a clean test, his or her car won't start.

Members of a conference committee agreed Monday on the final details of Senate Bill 6, which also would set up a central repository to track DUI offenses across the state.

Under the bill, first-time offenders would be required to have an interlock for six months. Drivers found guilty of a DUI who have been convicted of three or more moving traffic violations in a year would be required to have an interlock for a year.

Every state except Alabama has some sort of ignition interlock law, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Eleven states — Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Illinois, Louisiana, Nebraska, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Utah and Washington — require interlock devices for all DUI offenders.

Kansas already requires interlock devices for drivers who are convicted of a second drunken-driving offense, who refuse a Breathalyzer test, or who are caught with a 0.15 or greater blood alcohol level — almost twice the legal limit of 0.08.

Mary Ann Khoury, president and CEO of the DUI Victim Center of Kansas in Wichita, said Tuesday that she was encouraged about the repository, first-time interlock and funding for community corrections. But she said she was disappointed that the state will not make refusing a breath alcohol test a crime.

"We're so far behind" other states, Khoury said.

When a driver refuses a test, "they are breaking the commitment they made to the state" when they received their driver's license," she said.

Khoury said she also had hoped the state would raise taxes on alcohol.

Still, she said, "I'm very pleased with Sen. Owens for sticking with it."

Sen. Tim Owens, R-Overland Park, chairs the DUI Commission that recommended the changes. It began meeting after a drunken driver crashed into a 4-year-old Wichita girl and her mother in 2008 while they were crossing the street to school.