A Mississippi senator is pushing bills to close loopholes in the state's DUI's laws.
Senator David Parker of Olive Branch, says the deaths of two teens in a car wreck in Marshall County last year, led him to look into loopholes in Mississippi's DUI laws. Parker says the driver of the vehicle who hit the teens' car had seven first offense DUI's. He found out its easier to move first offense DUI cases through the court system because the penalty is usually a fine.
"Where on a second offense DUI, the sentence can be up to one year in jail. And so as a result, there's a federal statue that says that if a penalty can be up to one year in jail, the defendant is entitled to a jury trial," said Parker.
Parker has penned two bills. The DUI Transparency Act, would lower the penalty for 2nd DUI offenses to six months in jail to avoid the need for a jury trial. A 3rd offense would be a felony with a penalty of up to 3 years in prison. Judges would be able to request random drug tests for those under supervision. He says there's no machine that tests illicit drug use like those that tests blood alcohol levels of a driver before the engine will start. Madison City Prosecutor Trae Sims supports the measure which includes a $100 fine on court clerks who don't report DUI convictions.
"There has to be some accountability for when a written request is made and you're trying to prove something as serious as a subsequent DUI and you don't just get any response whatsoever," said Sims.
The other Senate bill--creates a committee to monitor reporting first offense DUI's and ensures all cases are entered into the proper databases. Sims says it was a glaring issue in the Marshall County case, where the driver had seven DUI convictions and killed two teens.
"Four of his prior DUI convictions weren't of record at all," said Sims.
Senator David Parker says the bills are headed to the Senate floor, then onto the house for consideration.