Cracking down on repeat DUI offenders: 'It's to make it tougher'

YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash.-- A new state DUI bill is cracking down, especially on repeat offenders. Tougher laws mean more time behind bars and quicker felony charges. Yakima county will get a new prosecutor just for DUI cases. Other parts of the bill might cost you money.

Washington's crackdown on drinking and driving is about to get a lot tougher. Especially, for anyone caught a second time.

"It's accountability," said court administrator Harold Delia.

Repeat offenders will be arrested regardless of the circumstances. If you're picked up for a DUI on a Friday night, you'll stay in jail until Monday to see a judge.

"It's to make it tougher, you know, send the message out," prosecuting attorney Jim Hagarty said.

Yakima County will be an early player in the new law. It's one of 11 counties chosen for a pilot program because it already has a DUI Court system in place. But, that will need some modifications. One will be the hiring of a new prosecutor to oversee every DUI case. Repeat offenders will have to check in with this special prosecutor twice a day while their case goes through the system.

"Violators would have to come to the county jail in the morning and in the afternoon and blow each to find out, make sure they weren't drinking during the day," Hagarty said.
KIMA asked, "everyday?"
"Everyday," he confirmed.

There's some concern another change in the law will cost the courts. Anyone accused of a fourth DUI will be charged with a felony. It used to be a fifth offense. Court Administrator Harold Delia tells me that will mean more felony hearings. Yakima County is getting money to pay for the new prosecutor, but not for more trials.

"That would have to come out of our resources," Delia said.
KIMA asked, "And, so that's taxpayer money?"
"Yeah, that's taxpayer money," Delia confirmed.

Since the beginning of the year, Yakima County deputies have arrested 40 people for DUI, the same number as the same time last year. This law tries to keep people from making the wrong choice.

Yakima County Commissioners could formally approve the new prosecutor position next week. The pilot program could be up and running sometime next month.