The Dover Post Wednesday reported that Governor Markell signed two bills designed to toughen up DUI laws for repeat offenders. House Bill 168 increases penalties for serious repeat offenders, and provides for in-patient treatment for those who need it. House Bill 174 creates the crime of vehicular assault third degree, a class B misdemeanor.
As a personal injury attorney who often represents the injured victims of drunk drivers, I find it frustrating that the General Assembly made it a class B misdemeanor to drive drunk and hurt somebody. A class B misdemeanor? Really?
Although the potential sentence for a class B misdemeanor under Delaware law is up to six months in prison, the truth is that it would be exceedingly rare for someone to get a six month sentence on a class B misdemeanor conviction. The Truth In Sentencing (TIS) Guidelines published by the Delaware Sentencing Accountability Commission (SENTAC) do not recommend jail time for class B misdemeanors. Rather, the presumptive sentence merely includes a fine, court costs, and payment of restitution to the victim for things such as medical bills or replacement of property that was damaged.
Here’s a better idea: we have drug asset forfeiture laws. Get caught with drugs in your car, and you may find that the State of Delaware takes your car from you. Why not have an automobile forfeiture law for repeat DUI offenders? Get caught driving drunk three times and you’re out – your car belongs to the Diamond State. It seems to me that would stop a lot of drunk drivers before they get to their 4th, 5th or even 6th DUI offense.
Opinion of Ben Schwartz only.