Does the name Desaleen James sound familiar? It should: James was in a Dec. 29, 2011 car crash in Silver Spring, md., that killed two of her friends. The driver was drunk; the car was speeding more than 90 miles-per-hour. James caught the whole thing on tape. She was interviewed by a local TV news station and wanted to show the video tape to others, especially teens, so that they might think twice before drinking and driving.
Heart-wrenching stories like this happen all of the time. Driving while under the influence is nothing new. In an effort to reduce the incidents of drunk driving, a new act has been enacted in Washington, D.C. The Comprehensive Impaired Driving Act of 2012, effective Aug. 1, has caused major changes to the penalties and fines for DUIs. The act also focuses on better training for breath-testing programs for police officers.
Some of the key changes include an increase in maximum jail time and fine increases. For example, the maximum penalty for a first time offender was 90 days in jail and a $300 fine. With this new act the maximum jail time has doubled to 180 days and the fine is now up to $1,000.
The mandatory minimum jail time for repeat offenders or first time offenders with a blood alcohol content level of .20 percent or higher, jumped from five days to 10 days. If an offender has a .25 percent BAC or more will be sentenced to 10 to 15 days in jail. The act also created a mandatory minimum penalty of 20 days in jail for offenders with a .30 percent or higher.
For commercial vehicle operators, the blood alcohol limit is .04 percent. If this is broken there will be a five day mandatory minimum jail penalty and any other additional penalties they receive.
The Comprehensive Impaired Driving Act also enforces stricter punishments for those who drink and drive with minors in the car. With a minor in the car, a minimum five-day jail sentence is ordered for every child in a required child-restraint seat and 10 days if they are not.
Along with higher penalty minimums and fines, new breath-testing equipment has been purchased to crack down on drunk driving. Breath-testing, suspended last year after a number of convictions were found to be based on inaccurate readings, is being reinstated. Part of the act establishes breath-testing programs and a certification program for officers who use the equipment.
The Comprehensive Impaired Driving Act was created to help cut down the number of DUIs and alcohol-related accidents in (and around) D.C.