- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 27, 2004

RICHMOND — Gov. Mark Warner yesterday ceremonially signed 25 new drunken-driving bills, endorsing some of the nation’s most stringent penalties for people who drink and drive.

The General Assembly considered more than 60 pieces of legislation dealing with drunken driving during the session earlier this year, several of which derived from a special task force Mr. Warner convened two years ago to study the problem.

Many of the new laws, which will take effect July 1, target repeat offenders and drivers with high blood-alcohol levels. One of the more controversial measures would allow the state to seize a person’s car after a third DUI conviction in 10 years, which some opponents say could unfairly hurt that person’s family.

Other bills passed by the General Assembly and approved by Mr. Warner would:

• Reduce the blood-alcohol content for drunken drivers, from .20 to .15, for mandatory jail terms of five days on a first offense, 20 days for a second offense.

• Require a mandatory two-day jail term for a blood-alcohol content from .12 to .15 percent.

• Allow police to arrest a person for drunken driving within three hours of a crash, without a warrant and at any location.

• Deny bail for repeat DUI offenders with three convictions in the past five years.

• Require that an ignition-interlock system be installed on cars driven by offenders who receive a restricted license for a DUI conviction involving a minimum .15 blood-alcohol content.

“This really is an all-out assault on drunk driving,” Mr. Warner said before he signed the bills. “The message you are sending loud and clear is that if you drink and drive or use drugs and drive, you are not welcome on Virginia’s roads.”

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