Drunk-driving laws are now tougher - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Drunk-driving laws are now tougher

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By Jim Wallace - bio | email

July 1, 2008

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Tough new DUI laws went into effect in Georgia Tueday, just in time for a crack down over the Fourth of July Holiday.

The biggest change in the law is increased penalities for repeat offenders. A fourth DUI conviction in a ten-year period will be a felony and bring months of jail time. Police and Prosecutors hope it will make people think twice before they drink and drive.

South Georgia traffic cops say sadly they often stop the same drivers for DUI.

"Some people just don't get the message. One DUI is not enough for them. If they have a problem drinking, they continue to drink and drive," said Dougherty County Police Lt. Thomas Jackson.

That's why Georgia legislators increased the state's DUI penalities again. House Bill 336 went into effect today, making a fourth DUI conviction within a ten year period a felony, bringing imprisonment from one to five years. Prosecutors hope the tougher penalities will make drivers think twice before getting behind the wheel after drinking, but say the big drawback is past convictions are not counted.

"But that four offenses does not start until after July 1st of this year. So you have to have four convictions after July 1st, 2008, before that felony provision comes in," said Dougherty Chief Assistant D. A. Dick Hand.

Prosecutors say they worry that tougher penalities and mandatory jail tmie will make more repeat offenders fight DUI cases in court, but hope those tough penalities will keep partiers from getting behind the wheel.

 "I think they'll be even more concious of the designated driver with the increased penalities," Hand said.

Law enforcement is stepping up check points, looking to stop the DUI driver before he crashes.

"It's usually the innocent, that's doing as the law provides like they should be, that gets killed or hurt in these wrecks," Lt. Jackson said.

And saving lives is why Georgia cops say they support the tougher new laws. 

The Governor's Office of Highway Safety says the Fourth of July is the second most dangerous night of the year on our highways for drinking and driving.

Number one isn't New Year's Eve. It's Super Bowl Sunday.

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