Gibbons: State Panel Wants To ‘Streamline’ DUI Law

Tennessee Safety Commissioner Bill Gibbons says the state is getting closer to overhauling the state’s DUI statutes, but he doubts the first round of changes will add any new teeth to the laws.

Gibbons said down the line he and a committee of state and local officials may consider recommending changes in the law like mandatory rehab for people convicted of DUI. But he said it was too soon whether the group would float that plan with the Legislature next year.

“Right now, our DUI law is 58 pages long. That’s compared to an 18-page first-degree murder death penalty statute. So, it’s very complicated,” he told reporters Tuesday at a law enforcement conference in Nashville.

The priority, he said, is to “streamline” the current DUI laws to make them easier for defense lawyers, district attorneys and the public to understand.

That revision could surface as early as the 2013 legislative session, although Gibbons gave no promises the language would be ready by then. Any significant additions to the policy might not be ready for another year after that, Gibbons said.

The revisions are part of a multi-year public safety action plan Gibbons has spearheaded as chairman of the Public Safety Subcabinet Working Group. The group is made up of Department of Safety attorneys, representatives from the District Attorneys Generals Conference, the Governor’s Highway Safety Office and the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services.

DUI enforcement is one of Gibbons’ priorities as commissioner. Gibbons, a former Memphis district attorney and failed Republican gubernatorial candidate, bragged to the Southeastern Colonel’s Conference in Nashville Tuesday about the state’s beefed up DUI enforcement since he took office.

According to the department, trooper arrests of DUI suspects are up 29 percent, or 800 arrests, from this time last year. By mid-August of 2011, troopers had made 2,757 arrests for impaired driving, compared to 3,557 the same time this year.