Cailfornia DUI Laws under Criticism

By Kamika Dunlap on November 10, 2009 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

California's DUI laws that allow repeat offenders to get licenses has raised brows for some legislators.

Under state law, drunken drivers have to hurt or kill someone before they permanently have their license revoked.

Some find William Simon's recent DUI case shocking.

The 42-year-old man from Belmont, convicted nine times of drunken driving, was sentenced to two years in prison, but because of credit for time already served will spend less than a year in custody.

The Bay Area News Group quoted a local legislator who called Simon's case "irresponsible and outrageous."

His blood alcohol content at the time of his arrest was .22 - almost triple the .08 legal limit.

But the California DUI Lawyers Association contend habitual drunken drivers will take to the streets with or without a license.

Despite DUI convictions dating back to 1985, Simon had nothing on his record indicating that he hurt or killed anyone while over the limit, Department of Motor Vehicles officials said.

The DMV uses a 10-year cutoff period to assess drivers. Under current law, a first-time DUI conviction brings a four-month license suspension, a second conviction within 10 years means a one-year suspension, and additional convictions in the 10-year window result in suspensions of three to five years.

As noted by the San Jose Mercury News, state officials can try to permanently strip repeat offenders of their licenses, but the driver must be deemed an alcoholic to have their license revoked. However, drivers who lose their license can reobtain it, if they prove they have broken their addiction.

State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, has called for the creation of a law that would automatically strip multiple offenders of their licenses.

As it stands now, prosecutors and judges can take into account the previous convictions during sentencing, but the DMV does not.

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