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Bill attempts to reduce use of ignition-interlock device

The latest effort to amend Arizona’s ignition-interlock device law — which would limit how long a first-time DUI offender would have to use one — received a Senate committee’s unanimous recommendation on Jan. 26.

Members of the Public Safety and Human Services Committee recommended full Senate approval of SB1200.

The bill would require the state’s Motor Vehicle Division to reduce the period a convicted DUI offender needs to have an IID installed from 12 months to six months from the date of the violation.

To qualify to have the IID removed six months earlier, an offender would have to successfully complete an alcohol or other drug-treatment or education program.

Alberto Gutier, director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, told the committee attempts to amend the law in 2008 and 2009 failed. The 2009 version of the bill — which had virtually the same language as SB1200 — passed Senate and House committees but died in the House a few days before that year’s session ended, Gutier said.

Don Isaacson, lobbyist for the Arizona Licensed Beverage Association, spoke in support of SB1200, which reduces, but does not eliminate, employing IIDs as a House bill provides.

While saying that extreme or repeat offenders should be treated more harshly, Isaacson said SB1200 allows first-time offenders access to treatment for the first six months of their sentences.

Isaacson said that studies show 80 percent of first-time DUI offenders don’t reoffend, and a majority of them have no prior arrests on any charge.

“It gives people a chance to be a good citizen,” he said of the Senate bill.

Committee Chairwoman Linda Gray is seeking to strengthen other DUI enforcement, such as giving law enforcement officers greater latitude to immobilize or impound vehicles of suspected drunken drivers. She probably will try to add such amendments to bills later in the session.

Molly Steffens, a resident of Tucson who said her daughter Brenda and her best friend were killed 21 years ago by a drunk driver, told the committee of her family’s suffering in the years since.

The driver of the other vehicle, who she said was given a 21-year sentence upon conviction for manslaughter, was recently released. At the time of her daughter’s death, she said he had four DUI convictions but still had a valid driver’s license.

“He’s out, free living his normal life. Brenda and Tracy are still in their graves,” she told senators.

Steffens said outside the committee hearing room that she hoped that the committee would approve the additional powers to immobilize or impound vehicles.

In related action on Jan. 26, the committee unanimously recommended Senate passage of four other DUI-related bills:

• SB1026, which would hike penalties and set forth minimum sentences for certain aggravated DUI offenses.

• SB1027, which would allow counties and municipalities to set up continuous alcohol monitoring programs for DUI offenders who have served at least 50 percent of their initial prison terms.

• SB1028, which would require a law enforcement officer to serve an order to suspend the driver’s license of anyone driving or in “actual physical control” of a vehicle with a drug in a person’s body for which that person does not have a valid prescription.

• SB1029, which would allow certain DUI offenders to apply for restricted licenses and to allow one who is served with an administrative license suspension to submit a request for a hearing online.

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