Thursday, July 04, 2002

Bill would alter penalty system

By Andrew Welsh-Huggins
The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — An overhaul of Ohio's traffic laws awaiting Gov. Bob Taft's signature will change the way speeding drivers accumulate points on their licenses.

        Under current law, frequent speeders rack up points based on how fast they were driving and how many previous tickets they'd had. The legislation before Mr. Taft, sponsored by Sen. Scott Oelslager, a Canton Republican, removes previous violations as a factor in determining points.

        For example, a person going 85 in a 65 mph zone would receive two points against his license whether it was a violation for the first or fourth time. A person going 95 in 65 mph zone, for example, would receive four points each time.

        The change was supported by the Ohio State Highway Patrol, said Lt. John Born, a trooper and spokesman for Ohio's Department of Public Safety.

        The bill also softens the legal penalty for a person's first two speeding tickets in a year. Under current law, a second offense is a fourth-degree misdemeanor, which usually means a trip to the courthouse.

        Fines and jail time are also possible, meaning a person could request a public defender and a trial, which clogs up an already busy court system, said David Diroll, executive director of the Ohio Criminal Sentencing Commission, which helped draft the 1,023-page bill.

        The new legislation makes both a first and second offense a minor misdemeanor, which doesn't get the legal system involved, he said.

        Once signed into law, the bill would take effect Jan. 1, 2004.


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