Every year approximately 1.5 million people are convicted of a DUI, but no state in the country permanently revokes a driver’s license after the first offense. Due to this, one-third of the people arrested each year are repeat offenders.
Each state makes its own laws regarding DUI convictions, but none of them have an automatic permanent license revocation in place after a second offense. The harshest penalty for a second offense is a suspension of three years, and this law is only in place in four states: Connecticut, Georgia, New Hampshire and Virginia. In contrast, North Carolina only suspends a second offender’s license for 60 days. Although the fines typically escalate quickly with each DUI offense, the safety of the general public does not seem to be properly taken into account by lawmakers. After all, approximately 16,000 people are killed and over 260,000 people are seriously injured each year by a drunk driver, yet the law continues to allow most people to drive after their second DUI conviction. In fact, only two states, Vermont and Connecticut, will automatically permanently revoke a driver’s license after their third DUI offense.
Why are the Laws so Lax?
Since research indicates that approximately 500,000 of the DUI arrests each year come from repeat offenders, why do the states persist in having such lenient penalties? Unfortunately, the answer is linked directly to money. According to one San Bernardino dui lawyer, these convictions are a big revenue source for each state, and they are able to greatly increase the financial penalty associated with each successive DUI. In other words, lawmakers have decided that they would rather the state have an approximately 33 percent chance of collecting several thousand more dollars down the line from a first or second offender than protect the safety of their citizens by permanently removing a repeat offender from the roads.
People Make Mistakes
An argument can be made that people mistakes, and therefore it would be wrong to revoke someone’s license before their third offense. The reality, however, is that almost half of the traffic fatalities that happen each year are caused by a drunk driver, and the families of the people who needlessly lose their lives do not want to hear that someone simply made a mistake. Even if we concede that the first offense should be looked at as a mistake and the individual deserves a second chance, it makes no sense from a moral standpoint to allow the person to drive again after a second offense, let alone after a third one. There is a big difference between having a one time-lapse in judgment and showcasing an habitual issue with breaking the law and endangering lives.
So far, the only recent changes to DUI penalties have increased the amount of fines that a convicted driver will deal with. The fact is that states now rely on DUI income as a big part of their annual budget, so lawmakers are not going to be in a big rush to dry up this revenue source. If you are appalled at the thought of an habitual offender being continuously given the opportunity to injure or kill someone, though, you can make this clear by sending a letter to your local politicians, both at the city and state level. If enough pressure is placed on them, they may eventually take safety into account and revise the current DUI penalty structure.
Anthony Joseph is a freelance writer, and a contributing author for the law office of Milligan, Beswick, Levine & Knox. As your San Bernardino dui lawyer, they’ll get you the results that you want and deserve. Together, they have more than 140 years of criminal law experience, and will fight for your rights in and out of the courtroom.