State Politics

Bill offers alternative to DUI charge, advances to Idaho House floor

A bill advanced Thursday by a House committee would give certain people charged with drunken driving a chance to have their charge dismissed, if they successfully complete an alternate diversion program.

Rep. Ryan Kerby, R-New Plymouth, first introduced his bill creating the program on Tuesday. But the House Judiciary, Rules and Administration Committee had some questions about it, so he came back on Thursday evening with a new, cleaner bill.

Committee members voted unanimously to send the bill to the full House, with a recommendation it be approved there.

Each participant in the voluntary program would use an interlock device for six months to a year and participate in other programs, such as an inmate labor detail or alcohol abuse education. If the participant successfully completed the program, the charge would be dismissed.

An ignition interlock device requires drivers to blow into a breathalyzer and prove they are sober before their vehicle will start. The state would use interlock devices with cameras to prevent drivers from having another person blow into the breathalyzer, Kerby earlier said.

Among the bill’s changes Thursday: People would not be eligible to participate if they were convicted of drunken driving in the last 10 years. Someone could only enter the program on a prosecutor’s recommendation, and a judge would set their driving privileges. The interlock devices would be installed on all vehicles operated by the program participant — not just ones they personally owned.

It’s unclear if Idaho prosecutors will view the bill any differently after its revisions. Idaho law currently charges a person with a felony upon their third DUI arrest. The Idaho Prosecuting Attorneys Association, the Fraternal Order of Police and the Idaho Chiefs of Police Association all opposed Kerby’s bill Tuesday because participating in the diversion program would essentially delay that felony charge until the fourth incident.

Cynthia Sewell: 208-377-6428, @CynthiaSewell