Proposed bills aimed at reducing DWI offenses

Dec. 29, 2010 at 6:29 a.m.

The death of a mother and daughter in an Easter morning car crash is the driving force behind a proposed bill in the Texas Legislature.

Senate Bill 231 would permanently revoke the license of a driver convicted of his or her second driving while intoxicated offense.

The bill comes after John Patrick Barton, 30, was given a life sentence in November for killing the mother and daughter in an alcohol-related wreck.

Barton, who was on parole for his third DWI conviction, was traveling 134 mph and had a blood alcohol content three times the legal limit, according to the Dallas Morning News.

The incident spurred action from Republican Sen. Jane Nelson of Flower Mound.

"We must stop these serial DWI offenders whose illegal behavior is devastating our communities with the needless loss of precious lives," Nelson said in a statement released by her communication's director. "Also, stronger intervention is needed for first-time drunken driving offenders."

Nelson also authored Senate Bill 232, which would require first-time DWI offenders to wear an alcohol detection monitor for 60 days or during their probation term.

"These are tough measures, but driving while intoxicated is deadly behavior and needs to be treated as such."

The Senate bills are two of several that aim to combat impaired driving being introduced in this year's legislature.

Another one, House Bill 161, would create a public database of offenders convicted of their third DWI.

Democratic Rep. Richard Pena Raymond, of Laredo, said he authored the bill after one of his constituents, a father of two, was killed by a drunken driver who had already been convicted of three DWIs.

"They felt like they wanted to do something," Raymond said of the man's family. "It's a sensible solution and not over the top. It may encourage people not to get a third one."

The Department of Public Safety already has a public database of DWI offenders, but this bill seeks to highlight those with multiple offenses by creating a more easily accessible database.

"You would have something that segregates what I would say are the most egregious offenders," Raymond said. "It's just a way of trying to get people to think a little bit more about what they're doing."

Chief Deputy Terry Simons, with the Victoria County Sheriff's Office, said he's not convinced these bills will be effective in combating impaired driving.

"It's probably a pretty good effort, but it's not going to keep them from driving drunk," he said. "People know it's against the law to drive intoxicated, so we're expecting those same people to now drive even though they don't have a driver's license."

Simons said he thinks the state needs to "put some teeth in our punishments," including having mandatory punitive incarceration.

"The solution seems to be that if you drive intoxicated, it's going to cost you some money and some time, and that works as a deterrent for most people," he said. "It still comes down to personal responsibility."



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