Kansas DUI lawyer Jay Norton testified before the House Judiciary Committee on February 16, 2021, about the proposed changes to the DUI laws proposed in House Bill 2377. That bill contains the recommendations of the DUI Advisory Committee of the Judicial Council. This is a culmination of two years of work by that committee, which included judges, prosecutors, defense attorneys and other representatives of interested groups. There is a YouTube video of the hearing here. Jay’s testimony comes at 24 minutes into the video.
The bill proposes several items that will be important to people charged with DUI cases in Kansas. On the criminal side, the new law would allow first and second time DUI offenders to be immediately placed on probation instead of requiring that jail time be served first. It would also allow courts to waive part of the mandatory fines. The mandatory jail sentence for third time misdemeanor DUI convictions would be reduced and get rid of some of the counting of hours on house arrest. Felony DUI convictions would be sentenced pursuant to the Kansas Sentencing Guidelines as Level 6 felonies, which will expose people with multiple DUI convictions, or who have prior felony convictions, to longer sentences, and sentences to be served in prison instead of the county jail. The bill also would clarify the law regarding diversion for drivers involved in accidents and plea bargaining in DUI cases.
The most important changes come in the context of the administrative driver’s license consequences. The new law would allow drivers to opt into a restriction to driving with an ignition interlock device immediately instead of being suspended, at all. Currently, a person who blows over .150, or refuses a test, or who has a prior DUI occurrence on his or her driving record gets suspended for one year, but can opt into a limited restricted driving privilege that allows them to drive for work or school with an ignition interlock after 45 days of being suspended (if they failed a test) or 90 days of being suspended (if they refused a test). The new law would get rid of the suspension period and let people drive immediately with the interlock. It would also remove the restrictions to only driving to work and school and let people drive wherever they want to as long as they had the interlock in the car.
The bill also proposes an affordability program for the ignition interlock. How much it costs to have the device installed and maintained on a monthly basis would be determined by each driver’s income, with discounts ranging from 10% to 75% for those who qualify.
The purpose of the suspensions and restrictions is to keep people who have been drinking and driving off of the roads. The new Kansas DUI law can accomplish that goal, since you can’t start a car with an interlock if you have been drinking, and it will allow people to continue to get to work, get to the grocery store, and take their kids to school and work. Because the ignition interlock typically costs about $150 to have installed and $75 a month every month that a driver is required to have it in his or her car, the affordability program will also be of great assistance to many Kansas drivers because the ignition interlock is not cheap. Hopefully, this bill passes and becomes the law by July 1, 2021. You can read the final report of the DUI Advisory Committee here. 2021 House Bill 2377 can be found here.