Judiciary Committee

JOINT FAVORABLE REPORT

Bill No.:

HB-5553

Title:

AN ACT CONCERNING SUBSTANCE ABUSE PROGRAMS.

Vote Date:

4/2/2012

Vote Action:

Joint Favorable Substitute

PH Date:

3/29/2012

File No.:

SPONSORS OF BILL:

Judiciary Committee

REASONS FOR BILL:

To: (1) Revise the penalty for a third conviction of operating a motor vehicle under the influence to allow reinstatement of an operator's license after two years with lifetime installation and maintenance of an approved ignition interlock device,

(2) Provide conformity for the victim impact panel program fees by amending one reference to such fee to reflect the amount of seventy-five dollars, and

(3) Permit persons who were eligible to participate in the Department of Motor Vehicles treatment and assessment program that was repealed effective January 1, 2012, to complete participation in such program and seek reinstatement of an operator's license or nonresident operating privilege in accordance with the requirements of the program that were in effect December 31, 2011, and establish a similar optional program for new offenders.

SUBSTITUTE LANGUAGE

The substitute language found in LCO #2988 incorporates revisions submitted by the DMV concerning last year's changes to the Interlock Ignition Device requirements.

RESPONSE FROM ADMINISTRATION/AGENCY:

CT Department of Motor Vehicles- Melody A. Currey: Is concerned about two areas of this bill. First, this bill attempts to revive the SATP, which was repealed in the 2011 session. The repeal was based on rationale that the SATP was redundant because offenders who were convicted of OUI were already being evaluated by CSSD. Because of the repeal of SATP, the DMV changed its requirements for license restoration of the offender, along with notices and procedures. This attempted revival would make SATP voluntary and still does not address the overlap in programs administered by the CSSD. It is also unclear what the DMV's obligations are for those who voluntarily complete the program. It also does not contain express language requiring the assessment of the degree of alcohol abuse of persons with two DUI convictions, making CT non-compliant with federal repeat offender laws, which may cause a transfer of funds from highway and bridge maintenance to safety programs. While CSSD uniformly conducts such assessments, there is no language reflecting this. Second, in 1999 legislation was enacted that imposed a permanent license revocation upon any person with a third OUI conviction. In 2005, legislation was passed allowing those whose licenses were revoked to request a restoration hearing after 10 years, which was changed to 6 years in 2007. In this legislation, the hearing can be requested after 2 years but it increases the Ignition Interlock Device (IID) use time period to lifetime use after the 2-year suspension. For the same reasons that the legislature recognized that a lifetime license revocation was unrealistic, the legislature should consider whether a lifetime IID use is unrealistic. The concern is that it will only be a matter of time before persons subject to this lifetime requirement contact legislators with reasons why they should not be required to use IID for life. Concerns addressed in Substitute Language.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF SUPPORT:

Representatives Henry Genga & Jack Thompson: Following the repeal of 14-227f, a pool of individuals who were mandated to complete the Multiple Offender Drunk Driving Program administered by the DMV no longer had to complete the program. These approximately 21,000 chronic alcohol abusers present a major public safety issue. Without this program, CT has no way to address this group of chronic alcohol abusers. Section 3 of this bill will assure that we once again have this program in place. Additionally, there is no cost to the state for this program.

Representative Tom Reynolds: Specifically supports the provision of this bill that relates to ignition interlock devices (IID), which is an electronic breathalyzer connected to the ignition of a vehicle that prevents a driver from starting the vehicle if that driver's blood alcohol content (BAC) exceeds a certain limit. A retest is required at randomly variable intervals while a driver is driving. Last year's legislation and this bill are an acknowledgement that Connecticut's public policy on DUI has largely failed, addressing two harsh realities: license suspensions and fines do not change the behaviors of repeat DUI offenders and three out of four offenders with suspended licenses drive anyway. Adopting an IID strategy is the most effective way to change offenders' behavior while allowing offenders to drive to and from work. It is important to remember that the offender pays the costs of installing the device and the monitoring service.

Charlotte Abrams: Ms. Abrams endorses this bill, particularly sections 3 & 4 that reinstate the multiple offender drunken driving program. As a licensed professional, she has worked with offenders who have used this program and can attest to its effectiveness. Chronic alcohol abusers were able to receive the help they needed to become a productive citizen with a decreased risk of reoffending.

Gregory P. Nolin: Mr. Nolin supports reinstating key components of this bill that would bring back the multiple drunken driving program, as well as other programs. The former is run at no cost to the state, and these programs provide follow-up care to ensure offenders receive the support they need to stop this behavior.

MADD- Janice Heggie Margolis: Ms. Margolis is the Executive Director of Mothers Against Drunk Driving Connecticut. She supports this bill but asks for language that includes mandating immediate Ignition Interlock Device installation for DUI offenders convicted for a 3rd violation, 4th arrest. Addressed in Substitute Language. MADD strongly supports IID as statistics show that as many as 50-70% of DUI offenders continue to drive while their licenses are suspended or revoked. MADD also urges that the current IID law be strengthened to require and mandate an immediate 5-year IID use for all convicted 3rd violation/4th arrest drunk drivers. DUI offenders using interlocks have acknowledged the device's change in their behaviors and the legislature should as well.

Karen K. Hardy: Ms. Hardy supports this bill, specifically sections 3 and 4 that reinstate the multiple offender drunken driving program. She has been a certified addictions and substance abuse counselor and has seen the changes that these programs make in the lives of those who attend. Attendees who attain sobriety and treatment through these programs are able to become law-abiding citizens who have a positive impact on society. The multiple offender DUI program has proven to be effective and she believes that these programs are the way to address the problem of drunk driving offenders.

Mary A. Grabowski: Ms. Grabowski supports this bill, specifically sections 3 and 4, which reinstates the multiple offender drunk driving program. She has worked with offenders who have participated in this program and although she was skeptical at first, she saw changes in the participants within the first weekend. She believes that the IID law is just a band-aid for the very large psychosocial problem that therapy should be addressing. She asks that the state not simply put a band-aid on this deadly problem but supports a solid program with noted positive results.

CT Renaissance- Mary Lebeau & Joseph Riker: Mr. Riker is the Executive Director of Connecticut Renaissance, an organization founded in 1967 by a group of parents to combat drug use among adolescents. Currently, the organization provides substance abuse, mental health, and related family counseling services and until its repeal last year, they have worked with multiple DUI offenders. They support reinstatement of these programs and the expanded use of IID. The reinstitution of the user fee based mandatory treatment program for multiple offenders in conjunction with the expanded use of the interlock devices and the new mandatory penalties associated with individuals with multiple convictions would create an exceptionally strong approach to dealing with the potentially deadly impact of DWI/DUI activity in Connecticut.

Midwestern CT Council Of Alcoholism, Inc.- Michael Norton: Mr. Norton is the Vice President of Clinical Operations at the Midwestern Connecticut Council of Alcoholism, Inc. (MCCA) and is in favor of this bill and the MCCA wholeheartedly endorses the mandatory installation of ignition interlock devices for multiple DWI/DUI offenders in CT. Recidivism behavior is severely reduced while the devices are installed in offenders' vehicles. Forty-seven states now use the ignition interlock devices in varying ways with everyone indicating positive results. Using IID in combination with mandatory substance abuse treatment versus IID alone results in much lower recidivism rates of DWI/DUI behavior. Using this combination provides the citizens of the State of Connecticut with the strongest approach to dealing with the dangers of drinking and driving behavior.

Paul Waters: Mr. Waters represents the Commonwealth Group of Manchester, CT. He particularly feels that both sections 3 and 4 show that the legislature has an immediate concern for the public safety at large. The Commonwealth Group, along with others, have been providing programs successfully since their inception and what they have been providing has been working. IID laws are agreeable, however they need to be complimented by concurrent programs that assess, intervene, educate, and treat. In addition to supporting the reinstatement of these programs, Mr. Waters would like the CT based providers to have their contracts restored so that they can continue to provide this much needed service. As a result of the repeal, the Commonwealth Group had to lay-off 22 full and part time employees, most of whom are now collecting unemployment benefits. Despite having no income, the Group continues to provide services and phase-out their clients so that they can get their driving privileges restored as was originally ordered.

Rita McParland: The multiple offenders DUI program presented by Mr. Paul Waters sixteen years ago has had a significant impact on DWI offenders. This program has been a huge success and does not cost the State of Connecticut one penny. Additionally, these programs often reveal other psychological/psychiatric problems that require prescription medication. These other problems may never have been discovered had it not been for this program.

Shawn P. Dougherty: Mr. Dougherty particularly supports section 4 that reinstates the multiple offender drunken driving programs. Mr. Dougherty is an Addiction Service Counselor working for the Department of Correction and wishes to point out that the multiple offender programs at issue here are funded by the offenders, requiring no state money to operate. Alcoholism and addiction can be cunning, baffling, and a powerful disease that these multiple offenders may suffer from. These programs address these issues, as well as addressing the safety of CT citizens, including these multiple offenders.

William Church: Mr. Church's son was killed by a drunk driver and he commends the General Assembly for their desire to strengthen drunken driving laws in CT. Installing IID's as quickly as possible is the key to reducing alcohol related deaths, injuries, destruction of property and recidivism. The people who get drunk and drive already ignore the laws of the state so license suspension is not much of a deterrent. Furthermore, whether people are law-abiding citizens or drunk drivers, they need to go to work, the grocery store, etc. After a couple weeks of asking for rides, the convicted drunk driver is willing to take chances and drive on their own. For that reason, Mr. Church requests for the suspension time to be reduced from 2 years to 45 days while making it mandatory right away to have the IID installed and used.

William J. Riordan: Mr. Riordan specifically endorses sections 3 and 4 that reinstate the multiple offender drunken driving program. Imposition of the IID in conjunction with the necessary programs will help clients recognize their high-risk behavior and make the appropriate changes. Reinstating these programs will likely save the lives of potential victims of intoxicated drivers.

NATURE AND SOURCES OF OPPOSITION:

None Expressed

Reported by: Henry Rowland

Date: April 4, 2012