Even West Virginia’s Alcohol Industry Wants to Kill Senate Bill 212

West Virginia SB 212 weakens DUI lawsThe alcohol industry has been known to oppose certain types of drunk driving legislation, on the grounds that alcohol sales suffer when people decide to give up that third beer or second mai-tai at nine o’clock.

But when legislators threatened to weaken West Virginia’s excellent ignition interlock law, the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility (responsibility.org) has publicly opposed the legislation and encouraged the state’s lawmakers to defeat it. FAAR is a non-profit funded by distillers in the USA with the purpose of fighting drunk driving

The bill in question is West Virginia SB 212, a senate bill which threatens to eliminate the state’s administrative license revocation (ALR) law. ALR is the process by which a person arrested for drunk driving has his or her license suspended immediately. No courtroom trial is needed: the license was issued by the DMV, and can be pulled by it according to the agreement made when it was issued.

Some legislators want to eliminate the Office of Administrative Hearings, which has the authority to suspend licenses, and move all suspensions to the court system. It’s a small-government move, designed to prevent duplication.

However, it’s a bad move, one which, according to an opposition letter sent to members of the House from Responsibility.org, would have far-reaching consequences.

WHY West Virginia SB 212 is Wrong

Eliminates a deterrent. By removing ALR, the bill would “impede the ability of practitioners to effectively sanction DUI offenders and protect public safety.”

Gives multiple offenders a pass. The administrative system keeps track of all arrests, so someone with 3 DUIs in 10 years will always be known as a 3-time offender. In the court system, some of those offenses can be pled down or trials delayed, so an offender’s true record might not be known. Thus, a multiple offender might get away with a light punishment.

Reduces number of offenders using ignition interlocks. The ALR system mandates ignition interlocks for all DUIs, with longer terms for high-BAC and multiple offenders. An ignition interlock, or car breathalyzer, prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking. The devices are known to prevent recidivism and thus save lives. But this valuable automatic protection will be gone if SB 212 is passed.

Responsibility.org is well aware that ALR is a life-saving measure. Studies in various states have shown that suspending licenses immediately upon arrest and requiring ignition interlocks to regain driving privileges has stopped many incidences of drunk driving and prevented fatal crashes.

Law enforcement, road safety organizations like MADD, families of drunk driving victims, and even the alcohol industry – all agree that the change to drunk driving law that West Virginia SB 212 brings about would be a disaster for the state.  If you live in West Virginia, the time to contact your legislators is now.