Stricter penalties for DUIs sought

By Beth Silver

Arizona Daily Wildcat

PHOENIX State lawmakers are trying to stiffen the penalty for driving under the influence by sentencing offenders to more community service.

A bill in the Legislature, sponsored by Sen. Patricia Noland, R-Tucson, would allow judges to sentence those guilty of DUI with an unlimited number of community service hours.

Under current law, judges are only allowed to sentence offenders to up to 40 hours of service.

"The hope is that it will have an impression on them of the seriousness of their crime," Noland said of the proposed increase in community service hours. She also said the bill would mostly affect repeat offenders.

University of Arizona Police Department Sgt. Brian Seastone said 103 students were arrested on campus last year for DUI.

Any combination of jail time and community service is a good idea, he said.

"It's another tool to help make people more aware and hopefully it will serve as a deterrent," Seastone said. "If people give back to the community, it's a benefit to the community."

Carole Bartholomeaux, a legislative liaison with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said college students are less likely to commit a DUI than other drivers. In Arizona, driving with a blood alcohol content of .10 constitutes a DUI.

"We don't have a problem with drunk college students. They may have higher insurance rates and may have worse driving records overall, but they have got the message loud and clear about drunk driving," she said.

If passed, Noland's bill would also allow judges to sentence juvenile offenders to a fine of up to $500. Current law restricts judges to a $250 maximum fine.

The law currently has a maximum $2,500 fine for adults and up to a six-month jail sentence.

The House Judiciary Committee passed the bill 9-0 Wednesday without discussion. The bill already has passed through the full Senate and is scheduled to go before the full House within the next month.

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