Governor Dave Heineman has signed into law bill 667 (LB 667) which introduces new laws for driving under the influence in Nebraska. The new DUI laws went into effect Jan. 1.
Among the new laws are:
•An increased ‘look back or washout period‘ from 12 years to 15 years. This allows prosecutors to use prior DUI convictions from as far back as 15 years in order to increase penalties for subsequent DUI offenses.
•Creates an offense of drunk driving with a child in the vehicle and makes the homicide of an unborn child while driving drunk a separate crime from a DUI.
•The provision of a 15 day temporary drivers license for everyone arrested for DUI or refusing a chemical test.
•Introduction of an option to allow people charged with DUI or chemical test refusal to bypass an administrative license revocation hearing and instead apply for an ignition interlock permit allowing them to drive for employment, education, treatment, parole, probation, health care and community service purposes.
According to the news release from Heineman’s office in December, the new laws will allow those who would like to contest their DUI related charges to do so by requesting an administrative licence revocation hearing while at the same time allowing those who want to accept the charges to do so relatively quickly and get back on the roads using a restricted ignition interlock permit.
According to state reports, too many convicted drunk drivers still get behind the wheel without a license; some still drink and drive. It is hoped the tougher laws and increased availability of interlock devices will curb the dangerous behavior.
Of 11 criminal cases listed on the Thayer County Court docket Monday, Jan. 9, five were DUI-related.
Other changes in the new laws include a mandatory two-year prison sentence for five-time DUI offenders, and the legal limit for those ruled by the court as habitual drunk drivers will now be 0.02 percent. The legal limit for everyone else is still 0.08 percent.
Current penalties include seven days up to 60 days in jail, a fine up to $500 and a license suspension up to six months for a first-time DUI conviction. A blood alcohol level of .15 or above warrants a license suspension of one year. An alcohol assessment is also possible as well as an order for alcohol treatment.
For a second conviction, punishment includes a minimum of 30 days up to 90 days in jail; 90 days to one year for a blood alcohol level of .15 or above, a fine of up to $500; $1,000 for a .15 BAC and a license suspension for one year; one to 15 years for a .15 BAC.