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Editorial: End DWI immunity for lawmakers

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This one should be a no-brainer: Take away the “get out of jail free” card Minnesota legislators now enjoy when it comes to driving drunk.

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We agree with the Mothers Against Drunk Driving organization that has joined Concordia University political science students in support of HF 2281, referred to as the “DUI Immunity Bill.”

The bill, introduced by Rep. Ryan Winkler and a companion Senate bill introduced by Sen. Kathy Sheran, will change the current privilege of legislative immunity for all offenses that don’t qualify as treason, felonies or “breach of the peace.”

Under current law, if a legislator is pulled over for driving under the influence during the legislative session, no charges are filed. DUI immunity is up for consideration in both the House and Senate.

“Legislators make laws to keep the public safe. These laws must be upheld by everyone, especially those who make them,” said MADD National President Jan Withers. “Drunk driving is 100 percent preventable and can cause so much devastation. Our lawmakers must be held to the same standards as their constituents.”

The 2014 MADD report finds that Minnesota has not been completely successful in its drunken driving reform.

With the possibility of earning five stars for effective measures to reduce drunk driving, the state only earned two stars.

In 2012, drunk driving took the lives of 114 Minnesotans. Passing legislation to hold lawmakers accountable is of utmost importance in strengthening drunken driving reform in Minnesota. It is in the best interest of everyone in Minnesota keep all drunk drivers off the road.

MADD says that allowing the very people who are elected to create our laws and punish criminals to get a free pass to break the law is hypocritical, and we agree.

Minnesota lawmakers can do more with their power and act accordingly to protect the public from intoxicated drivers. Things like all-offender ignition interlock law and perhaps even sobriety checkpoints will give law enforcement the tools needed to cut drunken driving fatalities.

MADD says that nationwide, all-offender interlock laws have proven to be instrumental in cutting the number of drunken driving crashes, injuries and fatalities.

Research indicates that requiring an ignition interlock for all drunken driving offenders reduces repeat offenses by two-thirds and significantly cuts the number of drunk driving deaths.

The law requires a DUI offender to install an ignition interlock, or in-car breathalyzer device. The driver must blow into the device to prove he or she is sober before the car will start.

The system is currently used by some DWI offenders in Minnesota, but not all. Those whose blood alcohol level is under .2 percent are not required to use the system.

“MADD calls on every state to adopt all offender ignition interlock laws,” said Withers. “MADD asks lawmakers to give law enforcement the tools needed to stop drunk driving by legalizing sobriety checkpoints and allowing for no-refusal events.”

Passage of the DUI Immunity Bill will be a step in the right direction – a step for responsibility and safety.

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