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Senate Committee Approves Bill To Strengthen DUI Punishments

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A state senate committee passed a bill Monday that would impose mandatory jail time for repeat DUI offenders.

Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, says last year nearly a third of DUI offenders in Salt Lake City didn’t spend any time in jail, instead getting sentenced to community service or home confinement.

“Home confinement is simply wearing an ankle bracelet that allows you still to go to work, to school or to church,” Eliason says. “I’m not sure what the punishment factor is, frankly.”

Eliason’s HB162 would drop the home confinement option and require a first-time DUI offender to spend 48 hours in jail or complete 48 hours of community service. Repeat offenders would have to spend a minimum of five days in jail.

“We need to send a message that we mean it: don’t drink and drive,” he says.

Sen. Jim Dabakis, D- Salt Lake City, noted that the legislature is also likely to pass a bill that would lower the legal blood alcohol content to .05, and wondered how the two bills, if both passed, could have unintended consequences.

“And I’m worried about the implications that come as we harden the punishments,” he says.

Dabakis left the room and did not cast a vote, but Eliason’s bill passed the Senate Transportation, Public Utilities, Energy, and Technology Committee 3-0. It will now head to the full Senate. The general legislative session ends Thursday at midnight.

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