FRANKFORT (AP) — In Kentucky, where a DUI conviction can only be held against you for 10 years, some state lawmakers want to make sure the court never forgets.
A bill moving through the state legislature would restrict people to just one first-offense DUI conviction in a lifetime. State law treats DUI offenses on a sliding scale, with penalties escalating for each subsequent conviction. But if someone has two DUI convictions more than 10 years apart, both are treated as a “first offense,” which often carries no jail time.
House bill 261, which passed the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, would only let people be convicted of a first-offense DUI once, regardless of when the offense occurred. Republican state Rep. Jim DuPlessis, who sponsored the bill, said it would discourage reckless behavior.
“What those people often do is they will take on risky behaviors, knowing the next offense is a slap on the wrist,” DuPlessis said.
But some Democrats worried the bill would unfairly punish those who made a mistake and never got in trouble again. People convicted of first-offense DUI can have the charge expunged from their record, if they meet certain conditions. But this bill would mean the conviction could never truly disappear.
“I cannot see penalizing them for the rest of their life for a mistake, as stupid as it may have been,” Democratic state Rep. Darryl Owens said. “To keep it on his record will be employers won’t hire him.”
But some Republicans had no sympathy.
“The whole idea is your first stays with you. If that is not agreeable to you, this is not the bill for you, quite frankly,” said Republican Rep. Robert Benvenuti. “The whole idea is the offense remains so the system cannot be manipulated by those who choose to manipulate it.”
The bill is part of a push to strengthen Kentucky’s DUI laws. In 2015, lawmakers agreed to require ignition interlock devices for some repeat DUI offenders. Last year, lawmakers passed a law requiring people convicted of DUI to wait 10 years instead of five years before the conviction came off their records.
This year, lawmakers are also considering banning “shock probation” for people convicted of second degree manslaughter or reckless homicide while driving under the influence of alcohol. Shock probation allows some people to be released from prison after serving only a fraction of their sentence, with the idea the sentence has “shocked” them into changing their behavior.
The bill passed the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.