Holsclaw refuses to let DUI bill die

Published 9:23 am Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Holsclaw Quote

An “out of the box” proposal to change the way the State of Tennessee punishes repeat DUI offenders may have failed during the recent legislative session. but the local freshman lawmaker who sponsored the bill says the idea is far from finished.

“I’m not going to let it die,” said Rep. John Holsclaw, of Elizabethton. “It was too popular and too good of an idea to just let it fail.”

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The bill, sponsored by Holsclaw, would have imposed a unique penalty on those Tennessee residents convicted of a third or subsequent offense of driving under the influence. In addition to traditional sentencing and fines, the offender would be prohibited from purchasing alcohol for a period of time.

Hearing report after report of people being arrested again and again on charges of driving under the influence inspired Holsclaw to draft his bill.

“You have people getting arrested for the eighth, ninth, 10th and 11th time for driving under the influence,” Holsclaw said. “At that point, you hear about them killing someone and you wonder why they weren’t stopped. What we’re doing is not working, so I tried to think outside the box to find something that would work.”

If passed, the law would require the local courts to forward offenders’ third subsequent DUI conviction to the Department of Safety. Then, that individual’s identification card or driver’s license would be imprinted with the words “No Alcohol Sales.” The additional fee associated with the issue of the specially designated license and identification cards would be at the expense of the offender.

However, while the offender would pay an additional fee for their license or identification, the state would have to bear the initial cost of the program.

Holsclaw said the bill’s failure in subcommittee could be attributed, in part, to the cost for the state to issue new identification cards and licenses to those residents sentenced to alcohol purchase restrictions.

“They have a contract with a third party for the licenses,” Holsclaw said. “Any changes to the driver’s license and it’s an automatic $90,000.”

Even though his bill did not make it through this round, Holsclaw said he has not given up on the idea because the problems of DUIs are still all too common in the state.

“I may tweak it a little bit, but I’m going to bring it back,” he said.

The Tennessee Department of Safety estimates there are 900 convictions for third or subsequent DUI offenses in the state each year.

Holsclaw introduced his bill to the House of Representatives on February 11 and Sen. Frank Niceley introduced the companion bill to the Senate on the same day.

The bill was passed by the House Criminal Justice Committee on March 25, just days after being passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill then moved on to the Finance, Ways and Means Committees of the House and Senate.

In the House, the bill was initially placed behind the budget, but on April 17 the bill was pulled out from behind the budget for consideration by the Finance Ways and Means subcommittee.

On April 21 Holsclaw’s bill failed in the Finance, Ways and Means subcommittee. That same day it passed in the Senate’s Finance, Ways and Means Committee and was referred to the full Senate for a vote.