Representative Doug Sagers (Republican – Tooele) is going back to fix some issues with legislation he ran last year, which eased up the punishment on some minors who are caught driving drunk.
Last year, both the House and the Senate unanimously approved Sagers’ HB 128, Driver License Suspension Modifications. The bill showed leniency to people under the age of 19 who were convicted of driving under the influence, by reducing the amount of time an individual’s licence could be suspended.
That bill allowed judges to reduce the mandatory minimum suspension time of a licence from two years to six months in the case of a DUI where the individual is under the age of 19, so long as certain conditions were met.
But it turns out that HB 128’s language didn’t retroactively apply to past convictions, so Sagers is now proposing HB 15 – Driver License Suspension Amendments, which will allow the lighter sentences to be applied to past cases.
The original decision to push through HB 128 was based off of the story of one of Sagers’ constituents. A mother in his district had a son who was convicted of DUI on his 19th birthday. The mother explained to Sagers that her son sold his car to pay for the fines, counseling, and drug court associated with the conviction, and was now struggling to find transportation to and from school and work as he attempted to put his life back together. At the time, however, there was simply no leeway in the law that would allow either the courts or the Division of Motor Vehicles to grant a temporary or school/work only licence.
Several organizations supported HB 128, including the Division of Motor Vehicles, the Commission on Juvenile Crime, the Utah Sentencing Commission, the Utah Substance Abuse Council, the Law Enforcement Legislative Committee, the Utah Council on Victims of Crime, and the Utah Board of Juvenile Justice.
This is, of course, a difficult balance to strike. On one end an individual, an underage individual no less, was engaged in drinking and driving – a clear risk to the public welfare. On the other hand, a DUI conviction at such an early age has a magnifying affect on an individual’s life. It is quite possible that a person under the age of 19 can not graduate high school due or attend college to a DUI conviction because they can not travel between home and school. Likewise, if they have just entered the workforce, it is quite possible that they miss out on early opportunities to gain work experience. Missing out on these opportunities entirely changes the course of a persons life more so than a person between 19 and 21 or if the DUI conviction is for an person 21 and older.
HB 128, which is now law, does not require a minimum sentence to be a six-month suspended licence, it simply allows a judge or DMV employee to set it at six months on a case by case basis. If a crime was particularly heinous the suspension could last much longer, it is only used in cases where the punishment matches the crime.
This is not an Earth shattering bill, but it points to the fact that lawmakers often have to go back and revise bast laws. It reminds us that not everything is set in stone, and it reminds us that citizen participation is still a critical aspect of the legislative process.
To contact Representative Sagers, click here or call 435-882-0931.
Impact on Average Utahn:
High Impact 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 No Impact
Need for Legislation:
Necessary 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 Unnecessary
Sound Legislation 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 Clunker