MOORE: "NOT NECESSARILY A FAN" OF BREATHALYZER CRIME
STATEWIDE SOLUTION FOR ST. LOUIS PROBLEM?
"We need to not hit with a big fly swat"
WATCH THE KY3 NEWS @ 10 REPORT HERE
Driving while intoxicated in Missouri could result in much swifter, harsher penalties as soon as next year.
On Wednesday, Governor Jay Nixon will join lawmakers at stops in Hannibal, Overland and Jackson to detail new legislation to crack down on offenders.
Following an investigation by the St. Louis Post Dispatch that showed a consistent pattern of repeat drunk drivers getting away with the crime, Nixon called the status quo unacceptable and convened a panel for ideas to improve the system.
That panel recommended possibly making it a crime to refuse to take a breathalyzer test and seizing the vehicles of drunk drivers.
The details of the legislation Nixon will back was unclear Tuesday night, but interested parties are already surveying what the potential changes could mean.
The most controversial potential idea could be the breathalyzer crackdown.
In at least three states -- Alaska, Minnesota and Nebraska -- a person can go to jail for refusing the test on the first offense. In others, there are a growing number of fines and civil penalties.
Safety groups support any measure seen as a deterrent.
"I think the harsher the consequences are to driving while intoxicated, the less likely someone will be to a commit the offense or repeat that offense," said Cheryl West of the Safety Council of the Ozarks.
But Greene County prosecutor Darrell Moore tells Ky3 News he's "not necessarily a fan" of that approach.
"We need to not hit with a big fly swat on something that happened in one area of the state," Moore said in an interview, referring to the problems in St. Louis. "Unlike the St. Louis metro area, most of us take care of these crimes."
Moore said he could support a provision that would allow police to automatically administer a blood test if a person were to refuse a breathalyzer. "It might have a minor deterrent effect, giving up a blood sample," he said. "But the most effective deterrent is a consistent application of the law," he added.
Defense attorneys are also raising constitutional concerns about a potential breathalyzer crackdown.
"I think there's definitely going to be some issues if they make it a crime to refuse to take the breath test because you have a right not to incriminate yourself," said defense attorney Ryan Cole.
Another potential piece of the legislative package: Seizing the vehicles of repeat drunk drivers, which raises another batch of questions.
"What if you and your wife own a car and your wife gets pulled over and arrested, or you get pulled over and arrested and it's not your car. And you're taking property from someone else," said Cole.
These details will begin to be hashed out early Wednesday morning, as the Governor tours the state.
Moore said he wasn't privy to what would be in the proposed legislation, but said he'd be surprised if there wasn't provisions included to try to improve record keeping.
"There are instances that if you were in St. Louis County and got a DWI, but it got reduced to a tail light problem, I may not know that. I hope it includes better record keeping. Not all records of convictions are being maintained," Moore said.