Rep. Thatcher: Bill aims at repeat DUII offenders

Habitual DUII Offenders Targets of New Drivers’ License Legislation
Hearing on Rep Thatcher Bill on Behalf of Newberg Family
By State Representative Kim Thacther,

(Salem) Oregonians with two or more convictions for Driving Under the Influence of Intoxicants (DUII) would have a special mark on their drivers’ license prohibiting them from purchasing alcohol under House Bill 2541. The measure was up for a public hearing in the House Judiciary Committee today.

State Representative Kim Thatcher (R-Keizer, St. Paul, Newberg) introduced a bill on behalf of a Newberg family who lost a loved one in a drunk driving crash. The other chief sponsor on the measure is State Representative Chip Shields (D-Shields) who worked on similar legislation a couple years ago after another incident involving another habitual drunk driver resulted in two fatalities.

66-year old Judy Cox was killed in December 2007 by a drunk driver who had six prior DUIIs. This was the second time for Cox. 27 years earlier she was traveling in a car hit head on by a driver who had five previous DUII convictions. Judy sustained critical head injuries and suffered significant health problems. “Dangerous drivers should be red-flagged,” said Thatcher. “We should send a message that we will not tolerate repeat drunk drivers,” said Thatcher.

Judy’s husband of nearly 50 years, Craig Cox, said, “we need more than fines for drunk drivers. This bill would help people to think twice before drinking and driving.” Cox and other family members testified on the importance of making it more difficult for chronic offenders to get access to alcohol. HB 2541 requires bartenders, grocery clerks and others who sell alcohol to check for the restriction symbol on the back of the drivers’ license.

In testimony provided to the Judiciary Committee, Yamhill County District Attorney Brad Berry said, “this novel approach may not keep such offenders from drinking, but there can be little doubt that it will have an impact by having them drink less by making it more difficult to acquire alcohol.” Newberg Police Chief Brian Casey explained, “we must take away all reasonable modes of access to alcoholic liquor from those that are unable or unwilling to control their own behaviors.”

Representative Thatcher provided the Committee with figures from the Oregon Department of Transportation which show an estimated 2,000 people a year are convicted for their second DUII. Thatcher also suggested alternatives to the mark on the drivers’ license. One might be issuing vertical instead of horizontal drivers’ licenses to repeat offenders or going back to a program from 30 years ago run by the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC). At one time, the OLCC issued special cards when people became old enough to drink and cardholders were required to show their card in order to buy alcoholic beverages.