On the heels of news that the number of roadway fatalities nationwide is higher than it’s been since 2009, Attorney General Peter F. Kilmartin today previewed legislation he intends to refile that will increase penalties for those who are convicted of killing or injuring individuals while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In addition, Kilmartin announced his intention to refile legislation that would extend the so-called “look back” period on repeat alcohol-related from five years to 10 years.
“Choosing to get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle while intoxicated or impaired on drugs is like playing with a loaded firearm - it’s dangerous and often deadly,” said Attorney General Peter Kilmartin. “Every individual who gets behind the wheel of a motor vehicle while intoxicated is knowingly risking their own life and the life of others on the roads. The penalties for such a deadly and callous decision should reflect the seriousness of the act, and there can be nothing more serious than taking the life of another.”
“One of the toughest jobs for a prosecutor or victim advocate is to explain to a family who lost a loved one at the hands of an impaired driver is why the penalties are so lenient. It’s time for the General Assembly to take action on these measures and recognize that killing someone while impaired is no accident and those who do will pay a heavy price,” added Kilmartin.
Attorney General Kilmartin has long advocated for these measures, and has filed the bills each year since he took office in 2011. The legislation has received the support of Rhode Island Department of Transportation, the Traffic Safety Coalition, the Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association, and Mothers Against Drunk Drivers.
“We have a built strong coalition of groups to advocate for the passage of these bills, and I am grateful for their continued support and commitment to improve the safety on our roadways,” concluded Kilmartin.
Increased penalties for DUI resulting in death or injury
One piece of legislation Kilmartin expects to refile would increase the penalty range for DUI death resulting or serious bodily injury. Under the legislation, a conviction under DUI death resulting would increase from a maximum imprisonment of 15 years to a maximum imprisonment of 30 years, a maximum fine of $20,000, and license revocation for up to 10 years.
A conviction of DUI resulting in serious bodily injury would increase from a maximum penalty of 10 years to a maximum imprisonment of 20 years, a fine up to $10,000, and license revocation for up to five years.
The legislation would also increase the imprisonment sanctions for driving to endanger resulting in death from up to 10 years to up to 20 years, and those in violation of driving as to endanger serious bodily injury would face increased penalties from up to five years to up to 10 years.
A second piece of legislation would create the criminal offense of driving under the influence resulting in injury. This act would address the situation where injury results from driving under the influence, but does not meet the standard of “serious bodily injury.” Those in violation would be guilty of a felony and subject to imprisonment for not more than three years and have his or her license to operate a motor vehicle suspended for not more than one year.
Extending the “look back” period to 10 years
A third piece of legislation Kilmartin is expected to refile would increase the “look back” period on third and subsequent alcohol-related offenses to ten years. Currently it is only five years.
According to the Century Council’s Hardcore Drunk Driving Sourcebook, a majority of jurisdictions have a “look back” period of 10 years. In fact, Rhode Island is the only New England state with a “look back” period of less than 10 years.
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