House Advances Mandatory Minimum Bill For DUI

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(Host) The House has advanced a bill that encourages judges to impose mandatory minimum sentences in cases where drunk drivers kill or maim their victims.

The bill also increases penalties for repeat DUI offenders and makes it a crime to loan your vehicle to someone you know is drunk or under the influence of drugs.

Hinesburg Representative William Lippert chairs the House Judiciary Committee. He said the legislation is one of several measures in recent years to curb driving under the influence.

(Lippert) "We generally want to send a message that the tragedy of drunken driving and the tragedy of loss of life, injury on our highways must stay in our consciousness must stay on the agenda for us, because every day when we’re out on the highway, one never knows if someone in the other vehicle has chosen to use that car as a weapon."

(Host) The bill says judges should set a 5 year minimum in DUI cases that result in fatal accidents or serious injuries. Currently the minimum sentence is one year in jail.

Lippert said judges would still have some flexibility in sentencing.

(Lippert) "We are setting some minimum expectations of incarceration but allowing for the judge to exercise their judging where the interests of justice and public safety require it."

(Host) Lippert said the House and the Senate divided their responsibilities on DUI issues. He said his committee will now take up legislation passed by the Senate that makes it a felony to try to escape from police if the driver kills or seriously injures someone.

That bill was prompted by the death of 43-year-old Katherine Borneman in December. She was killed by a Burlington driver who led police on a car chase. The driver had four previous drunken driving convictions.

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