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Oregon Senator Doug Whitsett 7/22/11

On Oregon DUIs

Driving under the influence of intoxicants (DUII) remains a very serious problem in Oregon. More than 20,000 DUII arrests are made each year, and at least a third of those arrested are repeat offenders. Thirty percent of Oregon traffic deaths are DUII related. More than two out of three traffic deaths between the hours of midnight and three a.m. are related to driving under the influence.. The carnage caused by DUII related injuries and property damage is alarming at best. National statistics show that three out of every ten U.S. residents may expect to be involved in a DUII related crash during their lifetime.


Both the people of Oregon and their Legislature are taking serious action on these troubling statistics.


Oregon has already adopted strict laws on blood alcohol content. The law provides that any Oregon driver has given their implied consent to submit to a mandatory breathalyzer test. Either failure of the test, or failure to submit to the test, results in an automatic suspension of the license to drive as well as significant fines. Moreover, the cost of the driverís auto insurance is certain to skyrocket.


An ignition interlock device is a mechanism wherein the driver must blow into a tube that measures their blood alcohol content before the automobile ignition is activated. Current law requires that an ignition interlock device be installed for at least one year in any automobile that a first time convicted DUII driver is authorized to drive. Any subsequent offense requires installation and maintenance of an interlock device for two years.


The DUII penalties increase sequentially with each repeat offense until the fourth conviction is designated a class C felony. That penalty requires permanent revocation of the driverís license, a prison term of up to five years and a maximum fine $125,000.


Last year the people of Oregon further increased the penalties on DUII offenses by adopting Ballot Measure 73. That measure requires a mandatory jail sentence for anyone convicted of a third DUII offense.


The recently adjourned Oregon Legislative Assembly passed three bills to further crack down on drunk drivers.


SB 395 was adopted to clarify how Ballot Measure 73 would be implemented. It requires a 90 day sentence in the county jail for a third DUII conviction. It also provides that the state must reimburse the county for the cost of that incarceration. It further clarifies that a fourth conviction is a class 6 felony having a 13 to 30 month presumptive sentence in the state penitentiary.


HB 3075 tightened up current law by requiring the installation of an ignition interlock device as a condition of interring into a DUII diversion program. The bill removed the ability of the court to suspend the interlock device requirement due to insufficient money in the Intoxicated Driver Fund Program. It also requires the provider of the interlock device to notify the court of any attempt to tamper with the device and makes any attempt to disable the device a Class A misdemeanor.


HB 2104 increases the fees paid by persons convicted of DUII from $130 to $230 and increases the filing fee for the diversion agreement from $261 to $361. The money from that $100 fee increase is dedicated to replenish the Intoxicated Driver Fund Program to insure that money is available to install and maintain the ignition interlock devices.


Adoption of these more stringent laws is making a difference. Oregon traffic crashes, injuries and deaths have been declining for several years even though the miles driven have increased.


A great deal of credit also must be given to Oregon law enforcement. Officers are now being routinely assigned to patrol at times and locations where DUII offenses have historically occurred. That police presence likely deters some DUII offenses from happening as well as placing the officers where they are most likely to identify impaired drivers. Some of the improved police policies include holiday saturation patrols, increased police presence in high risk areas and more emphasis on training to identify impaired drivers.


One area where the Legislative Assembly failed to take action was in prioritizing funding for the Oregon State Police patrol division. Projected funding levels for the next two years will not be sufficient to hire enough sworn officers to provide 24/7 patrols in most areas of the state. We can only hope that this unfortunate choice of priorities will not result in the reversal of our trend toward fewer DUII related crashes on Oregon highways.


Please remember, if we do not stand up for rural Oregon... no one will.






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              Page Updated: Saturday July 23, 2011 04:08 AM  Pacific

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