Saturday, September 22, 2001

DUI law likely to change in Ky.




By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        ERLANGER — The Kentucky Senate's Judiciary Committee is likely to make changes in the language of a drunken driving law that is resulting in some evidence being tossed from court, a Northern Kentucky member of that panel said Friday.

        Judiciary Committee member Sen. Jack Westwood, R-Erlanger, said the committee will act on some of the recommendations of task force created by Gov. Paul Patton that studied ways to curb abuse of the prescription pain killer OxyContin.

        Both topics were discussed this week in Frankfort during an interim committee of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

        “People's lives are at stake,” Mr. Westwood said. “These are issues we must explore.”

        Though it will be only a minor change, Kentucky's revised DUI law contains a loophole that lawmakers need to address, Mr. Westwood said.

        “It's really only a few words, but after the lawyers got ahold of it, they found a way to get around part of the law, so we need to act and make that change,” he said.

        Kentucky's DUI law was altered last year, when the legislature voted to lower the legal blood-alcohol level from 0.10 to 0.08.

        Almost as soon as it became law Oct. 1, lawmakers, judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers said there were problems with the law's provisions about suspected drunken drivers taking a blood-alcohol test.

        Police are required to read the warning to stopped drivers before they take a blood-alcohol breath test, which is typically administered by a device at a police station

        The problem with the warning is that it implies that a consequence of refusing the test is a doubling of jail time for first offenders. The law, however, contains no mandatory jail time for first-time offenders.

        “It's confusing to people, it's misleading and it needs to be changed,” Mr. Westwood said.

       



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