Several months have passed since Washington's steeper DUI laws have gone into effect. Now, some are using the New Year to evaluate the effectiveness of this law. In fall of 2013, Washington toughened their DUI laws by making those convicted of a second DUI offense face mandatory jail time and ignition interlock device installation within five days of being charged. This law was made in response to several recent serious DUI related accidents in the state. Many people felt that it was time for stricter DUI laws and penalties.
Now, some are asking if these toughened laws are steep enough. One article, for example, in the Olympian talks about a case where the driver of a Ferrari led police on a 100 mile-per-hour chase through downtown Olympia. The driver allegedly had five prior DUI convictions. The author states that the cause may have been that the driver was not fearful enough of the penalties of a repeat DUI offense.
Most likely, the driver in this story was motivated by something other than lack of concern for the penalties. Many repeat DUI offenders have substance abuse problems or other personal issues. Even if the penalties for repeat DUI included a lifetime of imprisonment, people would still commit these offenses. Lacking fear of punishment is only a small part of what motivates someone to commit a crime.
According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Washington now has some of the strictest DUI laws in the country. Still, the Seattle Times found that out of 600,000 DUI cases from 1998 to 2012, 1 out of every five defendants had prior DUI convictions. This shows that despite increasing penalties, some people still continue to drink and drive.
Lawmakers should look into other reasons that DUI occurs. Offering offenders more substance abuse counseling may be a good place to start as well as providing more options for people who drink but still need a safe way to get home.