Rep. Watson Pushes For Stricter DUI Penalties With ‘Dustin’s Law’ Legislation

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Representative Eric Watson on Tuesday unveiled a new push for the state to adopt ‘Dustin’s Law’, a piece of legislation that creates stricter penalties for those caught driving under the influence of drugs and methamphetamine.

Dustin’s Law removes the requirement of having a blood alcohol content of .20 percent and a prior conviction to meet the standard for aggravated vehicular homicide.

“A death caused by driving under the influence is one of the most preventable tragedies there is because those people make a choice before getting behind the wheel,” said Rep. Watson. “I believe we must do a better job of cracking down on those who choose to drive under the influence—people have to learn there are consequences for their actions.”

If passed, the law would be a legacy of the bill’s namesake, Dustin Ledford, 24, who was killed on the evening of July 10, 2010, in a two-vehicle crash on APD 40 shortly after 911 dispatchers issued a “Be on the lookout,” or BOLO, alert for a vehicle traveling north in the southbound lane.

Under present law, a person commits the Class A felony offense of aggravated vehicular homicide if the person commits vehicular homicide and the person (1) Has two or more prior convictions for DUI, vehicular assault or any combination of such offenses, or (2) Has one or more prior convictions of vehicular homicide; or (3) Had a blood-alcohol level of at least 0.20 percent at the time of the offense and has one prior conviction for DUI or vehicular assault.

This bill revises the offense described above in (3) to instead specify that a person would commit aggravated vehicular homicide if the person commits vehicular homicide and, at the time of the offense, the person had (1) A blood-alcohol level of at least 0.20 percent; or (2) A blood-alcohol level of at least 0.08 percent and any blood concentration of methamphetamine. 

“I appreciate the sponsors work to ensure stricter penalties for vehicular homicide in the instances covered by Dustin’s Law”, Secretary of State Tre’ Hargett, said.

Rep. Watson is chairman of the House Criminal Justice Committee. He lives in Cleveland and represents  Meigs, Polk, and Bradley Counties. 

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