DWI bill faces resistance in House

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(Host) Legislation that’s designed to crack down on people convicted of multiple drunken-driving offenses has run into a road block on the floor of the Vermont House.

Transportation Committee Chairman Frank Mazur says the bill is needed to comply with federal regulations and to give the state more flexibility using several million dollars in federal highway funds. Mazur says Vermont’s current law regarding the immobilization of cars owned by multiple offenders doesn’t meet federal requirements.

Under the proposal, a person convicted of a second DUI offense within a five-year period would have to forfeit the registration of their car for 30 days. A third conviction would result in a six-month forfeiture. Mazur urged House members to support the changes:

(Mazur) “Less than one percent of the vehicles that we have from multiple offenders are impounded or immobilized. This bill is the right direction in getting tougher on DWI. It also gives the state flexibility in using more federal monies for highway construction.”

(Host) But a number of House members, including Derby Representative Loren Shaw,were concerned that the bill could have serious consequences for other family members who might depend on the car for their livelihood:

(Shaw) “Mr. Speaker, it just doesn’t make sense to me that we’re going to make a already suffering family possible look for their needs to get transportation to and from work. They are already have one spouse that is out of control and putting a real burden financially. And I’m not so sure they could afford even a cab to get to and from work, Mr. Speaker.”

(Host) Backers of the legislation argued that the bill includes a hardship exemption for special cases. But opponents questioned how long it would take for such an exemption to be granted.

With a lot of questions surrounding the bill, House leaders decided to postpone action on the measure until some of these concerns are ironed out.

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