Earlier today a bill passed out committee that would permit Judges to permanently revoke the drivers license of persons convicted of a third offense. AB 1601 sponsored by Assembyman Jerry Hill will allow Judges to revoke the driver’s license upon conviction of a third offense DUI.

While both the California DUI Lawyers Association and the ACLU spoke against passage of the bill it moved from the Public Safety Committee to the Assembly Appropriations Committe on a 5-2 vote.

This bill, seems to serve a noble purpose, removing from the roadways persons who seemingly can’t exercise good judgment when they drink alcohol. However, like most legislation in the DUI arena, it makes for great headlines and publicity for the elected official but it doesn’t serve justice and certainly doesn’t accomplish the goal which is to reduce the number of drivers under the influence.

This bill does not limit the “look back” period as state law does (10 years) and would permit a Judge to permanently revoke a person’s license upon conviction of a third offense even if the two prior convictions were many years in the past and/or separated by many years.

What about juvenile DUI’s, do these lapses in judgment or “youthful indiscretions” count? What if the person was under 21 but was a .1? Does this count? Can’t the law provide for a more compassionate punishment for the mistakes of persons who are convicted of DUI? Maybe a longer period with an ignition interlock device, maybe take into consideration the fact that upon conviction the defendant is sentenced to a minimum of 120 days of jail, often times it is the first time a person convicted of DUI actually does any “real” jail time.

It also ignores that alcohol is the number one “self prescribed” medication, several times a person will turn to alcohol to deal with the death of a parent, divorce or other emotional situation. During the grieving period they may turn to alcohol to help “cope” such behavior can result in multiple DUI’s during a very short period, should these otherwise law abiding citizens lose their licenses for life? Take away their livelihood at the very time when they need support in their delicate emotional state?

Providing impetus for the bill was a headline grabbing story regarding two drivers who racked up more than two dozen DUI convictions between them. Unfortunately, the back story is that only 310,000 drivers in California have 3 DUI convictions a relatively small percentage of the more than 22.5 million licensed drivers (<a href="http://www.statemaster.com/graph/trn_lic_dri_tot_num-transportation-licensed-drivers-total-number"). Further, it assumes the worst in people, nearly every adiction clinic advises it's participants that sobriety is a daily task, that mishaps and backsteps occur, to allow a license to be revoked following such an incident seems a travesty.