City looks at DUI options
The Baldwin City Council focused the majority of its time Monday on two draft versions of Ordinance 1058, which would criminalize the activity of young adults age 16 to 21 who drink and drive. It took no action on this issue.
The council did unanimously approve two resolutions regarding the financing of Sixth Street improvements.
State law currently provides a stiff penalty for drinking and driving for individuals under the age of 21. Driving with a blood alcohol level between 0.02 and 0.08 brings an automatic driver's license suspension of one year. As soon as the police officer files his report, the suspension is automatic. No court appearance. No fine. Adults 21 and over are not affected by this law.
City attorney Bob Bezek offered the council two draft versions of proposed Ordinance 1058 that would apply only within the city limits. One version would be exactly the same as state law for individuals under age 21 who drink and drive. The other version would provide a 30-day license suspension, restricted license for 90 days, and up to a $500 fine for individuals under age 21.
Bezek said the council should consider what effect this will have on young adults in the community. If the goal is to change behavior, then a stiff penalty is required. If the goal is to provide a more graded option, then a less stiff penalty may be preferred. He also said the council could pass both versions of the ordinance and let the city prosecutor decide which penalty was appropriate for the individual case.
"In a college town, this affects a lot of people," said Bezek.
The legislature has already passed the law. Currently, any individual penalized under the law falls under the jurisdiction of Douglas County District Court.
"We're just bringing it into town," he said.
He explained that technically it isn't a DUI infraction. Conviction under this ordinance won't cause an increase in insurance; that's already written into the state law.
Students from a Baker University journalism class were present for the discussion on this DUI-related issue. They brought up how much they depend on their cars and asked why the focus on the 16-21 age group.
"The 0.02 limit is about zero tolerance in Kansas," said Bezek. "The chief proponents of the legislation were MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) and SADD (Students Against Drunk Driving) groups."
One student asked if the fine would go to the police department. Bezek said it would go into the general fund. Another student said this might seem to be a law merely about controlling drinking since by law legally drunk is 0.08 blood alcohol level. Bezek said the ordinance would apply only if the individual was drinking and driving.
"It's an issue of proportionality," said Bezek. "One year suspension seems pretty hard."
Giving the individual other options allows them to avoid the lengthy suspension, and pay a stiff fine, or even to plead up to a DUI conviction and end up with license suspension reduced to the length of the diversion program.
Ray Williams, who drives an 18-wheeler, said punishment should be as strict as possible. One student said the $500 fine was stiff enough, causing a hardship to any student, but a preferable hardship given that everyone these days needs their cars.
The ordinance was tabled by unanimous vote until the next meeting. Bezek said he would look into what ordinances other cities have on their books regarding this issue.
In other action, the council unanimously approved two resolutions. Resolution 04-01-08 authorizes the improvement or reimprovement of Sixth Street as a main trafficway within the city, and providing for the payment of improvements.
Low bid for Sixth Street construction went to LRM for $931,821.40. Baldwin's share will be about $457,000.
Resolution 04-01-09 authorizes the offering for sale of general obligation refunding and improvement bonds. This includes redeeming outstanding bonds from 1992 and 1994 and refinancing them with the Sixth Street/U.S. Highway 56 bonds. Refinancing at a lower interest rate saves the city $5,087.06. The total bond issue is $1,980,000.