Measure 73 would fix drunken driving law weakness

Doug Harcleroad
Senior Policy Advisor
Oregon Anti-Crime Alliance

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), the premiere group trying to stop the needless deaths and serious injuries on our highways caused by intoxicated drivers, has this to say about sentencing repeat intoxicated drivers:

“Progressive Sanctions: MADD advocates a two-track system of penalties applied in both the administrative and criminal justice systems. Designed to reduce impaired driving by repeat offenders and deter those who have not been detected, the system will administer progressively more severe sanctions to deter offenders who have not been detected and reduce recidivism of those who have been detected.

Mandatory Confinement for Repeat Offenders

MADD favors confinement which cannot be suspended or probated for those convicted more than once of driving while under the influence. Drunk driving is a crime, and continued incidence of such offenses warrants the punitive effect of a certain jail sentence. Making the sentence mandatory removes the uncertainty and increases deterrent value of the sanction.” (emphasis added)

The weakness of Oregon’s current repeat intoxicated driver sentencing structure is demonstrated by comparing Oregon’s repeat intoxicated driver sanctions to the states immediately surrounding us. I’ll focus on third convictions because that is what Ballot Measure 73, to be voted on November 2, addresses.


• NEVADA – Prison from 1 to 6 years (within 7 years of previous conviction).

• CALIFORNIA – Jail from 120 days to 1 year (within 10 years of previous conviction).

• WASHINGTON – Jail from 90 days to 1 year plus a mandatory 120 days electronic home monitoring.

• IDAHO – Jail from 30 days up to 5 years and treated as a felony.

• OREGON – Jail from 2 days to 1 year, and it is a misdemeanor.

From the comparison above it is clear that Oregon has the weakest (2 days) mandatory sentencing law for third-time convicted intoxicated drivers.

Ballot Measure 73 would fix this problem by requiring a mandatory minimum sentence of 90 days in jail for a third conviction for intoxicated driving within 10 years. It also makes the third conviction a felony. While not as tough as Nevada’s, California’s, or Washington’s mandatory minimum laws, 90 days is longer than Idaho’s minimum and does make these repeat offenders more accountable for their dangerous driving. When we know that 233 traffic fatalities in 2008 were alcohol or drug related and that thousands of injuries were caused by intoxicated drivers, doesn’t it make sense to put some teeth into Oregon’s repeat intoxicated driving laws?

Doug Harcleroad
Senior Policy Advisor