New, harsher drunk driving laws go into effect Wednesday in Washington, D.C. Mandatory minimum jail terms for people with blood-alcohol concentrations of .20 percent or higher have doubled. Commercial drivers, including taxi drivers, now have a blood-alcohol limit of .04 percent.
Breath tests on suspected drunk drivers in Washington, D.C., were suspended more than a year ago, The Washington Post reports. The new law does not include a timetable for when the tests will resume. The police department stopped using the tests in February 2011, when it was revealed that the devices they used for breath testing had produced inaccurate results. Since then, police have been using blood and urine tests.
A number of lawsuits resulted from the inaccurate breath tests. This week, the Washington, D.C., Attorney General’s office said all of the outstanding lawsuits had been settled. Both the Attorney General’s office and the police department said they were close to resuming the breath tests.
The company that makes the testing device is making changes to the software, the article notes. When the police receive the machines, they will begin training on how to use them.
Under the new law, the minimum jail term for repeat driving under the influence offenders will increase from five days to 10. First-time offenders with blood-alcohol concentrations of .20 percent or higher will face the same minimum jail term. The minimum penalty increases to 15 days for those with a blood-alcohol concentration of .25 percent or higher. At .30 percent, the minimum is now 20 days.
Maximum penalties for first-time offenders have risen to 180 days in jail, and a fine of up to $1,000. The previous maximum penalties were 90 days in jail and a $300 fine.