State Senate approves alternatives to jail for DUI, other offenses
The state Senate approved a measure Thursday making it easier for people convicted of drunken driving and other offenses to reduce their jail time, which Republican lawmakers opposed as "decriminalization" of driving under the influence of alcohol.
The bill was introduced by Assemblyman Roger Hernandez (D-West Covina) a month before his arrest in March for drunken driving. Hernandez has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial, but the Senate amended the measure to take his name off the bill.
Even so, Sen. Joel Anderson (R-San Diego) repeatedly referred to the bill during the floor debate as "Roger’s Law," and said it would jeopardize public safety and reverse direction after decades of adding teeth to DUI laws.
"Today sadly we are faced with a bill that would start pulling those very same teeth from California drunk driving laws," Anderson said, joining opponents including Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the California District Attorneys Assn.
Requested by the San Bernardino County sheriff, AB 2127 would allow sheriffs to give convicts credit against jail sentences for participating in educational programs and vocational training as well as life-skills, parenting and substance-abuse classes, as an alternative to the current manual labor work release.The bill does not mention drunk driving or any offense by name, but would broadly apply to offenses eligible for jail sentences.
"This bill would serve as an incentive for people convicted of low-level misdemeanors to do their best in fully reintegrating into the general society," said Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod (D-Chino). The measure was approved by a 21-14 vote, with some Democrats opposed. It was previously approved by the Assembly, but goes back there for approval of amendments.
--Patrick McGreevy in Sacramento
Photo: Officers look for intoxicated motorists at a checkpoint in San Bruno, Calif., in 2006. Photographer: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images