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Senator wants to crack down on repeat DWI offenders

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State Senator Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, announced this week plans to pursue legislation in the 2011 legislative session to toughen laws against repeat drunk drivers.

Her action comes after the tragic Easter weekend accident in Lewisville where a mother and daughter from Argyle were killed and other family members were injured after their car was struck by an intoxicated driver who had three previous DWI convictions.

A grand jury handed down two murder indictments against the driver, John Patrick Barton, 30, on Thursday.

“We must stop these serial DWI offenders whose illegal behavior is devastating our communities with the needless loss of precious lives,” said Senator Nelson.

“I intend to pursue a ‘two strikes and you’re out’ law that will ensure anyone who is convicted of a second DWI offense will lose their drivers license forever.”

In 2001 Senator Nelson sponsored a landmark piece of legislation requiring an automatic license suspension on the second DWI convention, as well as the installation of an ignition interlock on the driver’s vehicle.  The bill also expanded the open container law.  Since then the Legislature has added additional penalties for driving under the influence.  Current law provides for a maximum license suspension of two years.
 
Senator Nelson is in the drafting stages of legislation that will:

·Permanently revoke the driver licenses of individuals upon their second offense;
·Make intoxication assault causing serious bodily injury a first-degree felony;
·Create a misdemeanor offense for driving with a suspended license.

“Prosecutors say they are seeing more and more cases where a person is getting their third and fourth DWI, and killing someone in the process. Clearly, the penalties are not severe enough to change behavior,” she said.

In 2008, national highway safety authorities attributed 1,278 deaths on Texas roadways to crashes involving drivers whose blood alcohol content was .08 or higher.  Texas has gotten tougher on drunk drivers but the Legislature needs to do more to end these senseless tragedies, Senator Nelson said.

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