A pack of bills that would strengthen Virginia’s DUI laws are sailing through the state’s House of Delegates after they were unanimously voted out of the Courts of Justice Committee on Friday.
Del. David B. Albo, R-Fairfax, chairman of the committee, is sponsoring House Bill 49, which would guarantee that anyone found guilty of DUI manslaughter serve no less than a year in jail.
Under current sentencing guidelines, most people found guilty of DUI-related manslaughter serve less than a year.
“One person a day is killed by a drunk driver in Virginia,” Albo said Monday. “But we’ve gotten used to it. It happens slowly and surely. … People have become anesthetized to it.”
The bill also provides that someone guilty of aggravated DUI manslaughter, defined by a “reckless disregard for human life,” would serve no less than five years in jail. Currently, the minimum is one year.
House Bill 962, sponsored by Del. Robert B. Bell, R-Albemarle, would establish a three-year minimum sentence for anyone convicted of aggravated DUI maiming, or causing serious bodily harm.
Another of Bell’s bills, to establish a zero-tolerance policy on blood alcohol content upon the restoration of driving privileges after a DUI conviction, also advanced.
For two years after the restoration of full driving privileges, House Bill 957 would make it illegal for a person convicted of a DUI to drive with a blood alcohol level of 0.02 percent or higher. Also moving forward is House Bill 279, introduced by Del. Salvatore R. Iaquinto, R-Virginia Beach, which would require an ignition interlock device to be installed in the cars of first-time DUI offenders. Currently, the device — which requires a breathalyzer test for the vehicle to start and reports failures — is installed only after a second offense or when a first-time offender’s blood alcohol content is above 0.15 percent.
Meanwhile, two bills aimed at tightening the state’s open-container laws failed to advance Monday morning from the Senate Courts of Justice Committee.
The legislation (Senate Bills 206 and 289), which would prohibit the passenger in an automobile from possessing an open container of alcohol, failed to clear the panel on a 7-7 tie. It could be revived this session.
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