Senate Endorses Monitoring of Repeat DUI Offenders

By Beacon Staff

HELENA – Attorney General Steve Bullock’s proposal to crack down on repeat drunk-driving offenders was endorsed Monday by the Montana Senate, paving the way for the measure to clear the Legislature.

The chamber moved the plan ahead on a 40-9 vote, with just a few opponents arguing the measure goes too far by stringently treating every repeat DUI offender as an alcoholic.

Under the plan, repeat DUI offenders are required to take to a breath test twice a day, every day at their own expense. Bullock says the program has proven successful in a pilot project in keeping repeat offenders sober.

Supporters said Montana needs to take drinking and driving more seriously as part of an effort to make highways safer. The so called “24/7” program is the highest profile of number of DUI reform proposals working through the Legislature after several high-profile deaths put more focus on the issue.

Lawmakers from both sides entered the session with the intent of getting tough on drunk driving.

The attorney general’s 24/7 plan faces one more Senate vote, before it is returned to the House so that chamber can concur with one small amendment. The substance of the plan was already approved overwhelmingly by the House.

A couple of other DUI plans also cleared hurdled Monday, including one setting up a training system for those who serve alcohol and another that tightens up DUI laws for misdemeanor cases.

Some senators pushed back against the 24/7 plan.

Sen. Ryan Zinke, R-Whitefish, argued that the plan unfairly assumes that every repeat offender is an alcoholic that must be monitored daily. He said it is an unfair intrusion of the government into the homes of those who will be monitored constantly.

Supporters argued the plan is worth it, and believe it can significantly reduce the repeat DUIs that are among the biggest problems in the state.

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