House passes drunk driving bill

Posted: Tuesday, May 14, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A bill that would make Alaska's drunken driving laws among the toughest in the nation passed by unanimous vote in the House late Sunday evening.

House Bill 4, sponsored by Rep. Norm Rokeberg, R-Anchorage, would stiffen penalties for drunken driving.

Among the provisions, the bill would increase fines for first-time drunken driving offenders from $250 to $1,500. It also would increase fines for felony drunken driving convictions from $5,000 to $10,000 and would increase the minimum jail sentence for people convicted of manslaughter while driving drunk from five to seven years.

''This is a major piece of legislation that we can all be proud of,'' Rokeberg told his colleagues before the vote.

The bill, which was passed by the Senate last week, now heads to Gov. Tony Knowles. Last year, Knowles signed a measure that toughened the state's drunken driving laws by lowering the legal blood alcohol limit.

Rokeberg said his bill is a companion to last year's measure. Beside toughening penalties, it gives judges more discretion in sentencing. For example, if an offender goes through a new court treatment program, the judge could reduce fines by up to 50 percent and sentences by 75 percent.

''If people work to resolve any substance abuse problems, we'll work with them, but if they want to continue to put others at risk with their behavior, we will take the necessary steps to fight back,'' Rokeberg said.

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