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Harsher DUI laws await drunk drivers

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- Those who viewed Nebraska's previous driving under the influence laws as harsh got a wake up call at midnight July 12 when LB 925 went into effect.

The tougher legislation, signed by Nebraska Gov. Dave Heinemann during the last state legislative session, aims to clamp down on DUI offenders by increasing penalties, creating new offenses and allowing law enforcement officials access to blood samples taken from drivers for medical purposes.

"The revised law is very important to the people of this state and city," said Bellevue Police Capt. Herb Evers, Uniform Patrol Bureau commander. "This law gives the justice system a chance at making our streets a safer place to travel.

The chart on page 8 summarizes the new stricter penalties.

Once the new law has been in place, enforced and adjudicated, Captain Evers said he hopes to see a reduction in crashes involving DUI drivers. He also expects a reduction in the injuries and death rates associated with drunk driving.

"The unfortunate part is that it takes so long and so much effort to stop people from impaired driving, our arrest rate will probably not change," he added.

With the addition of the new, tougher legislation in law enforcement's arsenal, Captain Evers said, it's even more important for people to evaluate their behaviors.

"There are tough choices in life," the captain said, with one of the easy ones being "don't drink and drive" since there are several options for people to choose from instead of driving under the influence. Options include using a designated driver, calling a cab or drinking at home. For Offutt members, options also include calling one of the base's two "taxi" services operated by the Chief's Group and Airmen Against Drunk Driving.

"If you're old enough to drink, go ahead ... just pick one of the many options and don't get behind the wheel," Captain Evers said.

Harsher penalties for DUIs

Nebraska's new DUI penalty scale is far less forgiving of repeat offenders, and people who are caught with blood alcohol levels over twice the legal limit.

Current Law:
1st offense (>.08 BAC): 7-60 days jail, $500
1st offense (>.16 BAC): same penalty

2nd offense (>.08 BAC): 30-180 days, $500
2nd offense (>.16 BAC): 30-365 days, $1000

3rd offense (>.08 BAC): 90-365 days, $500
3rd offense (>.16 BAC): 0-1 year, $1000

New Law:
1st offense (>.08 BAC): 7-60 days jail, $500
1st offense (>.16 BAC): same penalty

2nd offense (>.08 BAC): 30-180 days, $500
2nd offense (>.16 BAC): 90-365 days, $1000

3rd offense (>.16 BAC): 180 days - 5 years, $10,000 fine, Class IIIa felony