House bill would require ignition interlocks after first DUI

      Missourians would have to have their vehicles equipped with ignition interlock devices after their first drunk driving conviction, under a bill under consideration in the House.

Representative Mark Sharp (Photo: Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

      Ignition interlock devices prevent a vehicle from starting if they register too great of an alcohol content in a breath test.  Current law requires a person to have a previous conviction for driving while intoxicated before restricting them to driving only vehicles equipped with such a device.  Under House Bill 1680 a court must prohibit anyone convicted of an intoxicated driving offense from driving unequipped vehicles for at least six months.

      Kansas City representative Mark Sharp (D) sponsors it.

      “It’s really about saving lives,” said Sharp.  “If you’ve had too many drinks when you’re leaving the bar and you can’t pass the test, you can’t drive.  That forces people to look at other options as far as Uber or having a friend come and pick them up, but it stops that person who is intoxicated from getting behind the wheel.”

      Sharp believes his bill would be a deterrent, not just by keeping people from driving drunk but by making them want to avoid a situation in which they could.

      “This should stop some folks from wanting to go out and getting drunk and driving too, because after your first offense you would be required to have [an ignition interlock device] instead of after your second or third,” said Sharp.  “I do think this will stop some folks.  If this gets promoted the right way hopefully we can get folks to not want to do it as much.”

      Sharp’s bill has had a hearing before the House Committee on Crime Prevention, which is chaired by former Police Chief and Department of Public Safety Director Lane Roberts (R-Joplin).  He expressed support for the idea.

      “I began my police career in 1971.  At that time the presumptive [blood alcohol content] level was .15 – nearly twice what it is today.  Even then we were killing about 25,000 people a year, nationally, due to drunk driving,” said Roberts.  “Anything that makes that activity more difficult certainly has my support and I appreciate [Representative Sharp] putting this forward.”

      Mothers Against Drunk Driving told the Committee that between 2006 and 2020, interlocks stopped 128,196 attempts to drive drunk in Missouri, with more than 11,000 of those incidents in 2020.  DUI deaths reportedly decreased by 15% in states that enacted laws such as HB 1680.

      The committee has not voted on Sharp’s legislation.

Likely fewer DUI checkpoints in Missouri under new state budget

The state budget that went into effect July 1 could lead to fewer impaired driving checkpoints but more periods of increased law enforcement presence on Missouri roads.

Representative Scott Fitzpatrick (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Under language the House proposed no money controlled by that budget can be used on checkpoints.  Specifically, $20-million available for grants that law enforcement agencies have used to fund various efforts now cannot be used for checkpoints.

Supporters said data from the Department of Transportation show that periods of having more officers on the roads, often called “saturation efforts,” get more results for the money invested.

MODOT reported that in the year that ended July 1, 2016, saturation efforts resulted in 3,055 arrests at a cost of $704 per arrest, compared 1,201 arrests at checkpoints at a cost of $1,047 per arrest.   Over the three years through July 1, 2016, saturation periods yielded 9,288 arrests at $704 apiece compared to 4,152 arrests at checkpoints costing $919 each.

A comparison by House staff of states in which checkpoints are legal with states in which they are not found that the latter had a slightly lower number of drunk driving fatalities per capita.

House Budget Committee Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick (R-Shell Knob) said the new language was about making the most effective use of Missouri budget dollars and taking the most effective action toward making roads safer.

“I was convinced by the data … that it’s a better use of money, and it saves more lives by getting more drunk drivers off the road and it does so at a lower cost,” said Fitzpatrick.  “From a budgeting perspective it’s hard to argue in any way that checkpoints are the more effective method than saturation patrols.”

Representative Justin Hill (R-Lake St. Louis), a former O’Fallon Police officer, supported the restriction.

“What we’re going to see is better bang for the taxpayer’s buck because when you put an officer out there and say, ‘Go get an impaired driver,’ for four hours, chances are the officer’s going to find one, but when you add all those officers on one single checkpoint … they average anywhere from three to five.  For 20 officers that’s just not effective use of taxpayer dollars,” said Hill.

Representative Kathie Conway (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

The prohibition was strongly opposed by St. Charles Republican Kathie Conway, who chairs the budget subcommittee on Public Safety.  She argues it’s misleading to say saturation patrols yield more arrests.

Conway said saturation efforts and checkpoints work together, first by publicizing checkpoints on social media and traffic announcements.

“That drives people away from that checkpoint.  Then the saturation on the perimeters of that, because there’s only so many ways to avoid that checkpoint, they catch them,” said Conway.  “So to say they don’t catch people at check points … if you want to get technical about it they’re not, but having that checkpoint they know where the people are going to be going to avoid it.”

From now through June 30, 2018, Missouri law enforcement agencies can still conduct checkpoints, but would have to pay for them through means other than these grants.

Legislature’s budget bars use of state-appropriated funds for DUI checkpoints

Missouri drivers could see fewer impaired driving checkpoints under the budget proposed by the legislature.

House Budget Committee Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick (left) and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Dan Brown (right) conduct a budget conference committee hearing in the House Lounge on May 3, 2017. (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)
House Budget Committee Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick (left) and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Dan Brown (right) conduct a budget conference committee hearing in the House Lounge on May 3, 2017. (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Language added by the House would prevent money in that budget from being used on checkpoints.  It could still be used for other enforcement efforts, and many lawmakers said they would prefer to see it used for saturation efforts – periods of increased numbers of law enforcement personnel on the roads.

House Budget Committee Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick (R-Shell Knob) said saturation efforts are more effective.

“Once the subcommittee passed that amendment, made that recommendation, I researched the issue, and the reality is that saturation patrols result in a greater number of arrests and at less cost per arrest,” said Fitzpatrick.  “To me what we should do as a budget committee is make sure that we’re spending the money in a way that gets the most number of drunk drivers off the road.”

Representative Kathie Conway (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)
Representative Kathie Conway (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

The shift was strongly opposed by the Representative Kathie Conway (R-St. Charles), who chairs the subcommittee on the Department of Public Safety’s budget.

“I think that any time we take funds away that help law enforcement stop DWIs, it’s shameful,” said Conway.  “These two different methods – the saturation and the DUI checkpoints – work in harmony in the more populous areas … what I wanted to see allowed, either or, or a combination, it did not restrict it, and I very much do not like the House version of it.”

Several House Democrats agreed that they would rather have seen law enforcement allowed to continue using state appropriated funds for checkpoints, however the change was supported by several members of the legislature with law enforcement backgrounds.

Fitzpatrick said he wants to at least see some results.

“I would like to get a year’s worth of data on this.  I think it will result in more arrests,” said Fitzpatrick.

The change means that for the fiscal year beginning July 1, law enforcement agencies can still conduct DUI checkpoints, but they cannot use funds allocated by the state budget to pay for them.

The House and Senate voted Thursday to send that budget plan to Governor Eric Greitens (R), one day ahead of its constitutional deadline.

House budget proposal could mean fewer DUI checkpoints on Missouri roads

If the House’s budget proposal stands, Missourians might see fewer DUI checkpoints on state roads over the next fiscal year.

Representative Galen Higdon opposed language in the House's FY '18 budget proposal that would keep state and federal funds allocated by that budget from going to DUI Checkpoints. (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)
Representative Galen Higdon opposed language in the House’s FY ’18 budget proposal that would keep state and federal funds allocated by that budget from going to DUI Checkpoints. (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

The House proposed language that would prevent money controlled by that budget from going to such checkpoints.  House Budget Committee Chairman Scott Fitzpatrick (R-Shell Knob) said this is largely because of data indicating checkpoints aren’t effective enough compared to other enforcement methods.

“I looked at the data … on what’s the best way to get drunk drivers off the road, and according to data from [the Department of Transportation], the best way to do it is saturation patrols,” said Fitzpatrick.  “Last year alone, saturation patrols resulted in a little over 3,000 DWI arrests.  Checkpoints resulted in about 1,200, at a cost of over $1,000 per arrest when you look at how much we spend on the checkpoints.”

Lake St. Louis Republican Representative Justin Hill, who formerly worked for the O’Fallon Police Department, also said saturation efforts are more effective.  He encouraged fellow lawmakers to give those a try for the twelve months of Fiscal Year ’18.

“Let’s look at the numbers, and I’m sure you will see, and your constituents and your police departments will see that this is more effective and is least impacting innocent individuals that might otherwise go through a checkpoint,” said Hill.

Representative Galen Higdon (R-St. Joseph) is a former Buchanan County Sheriff’s Deputy.  He coordinated checkpoints for the last four years before his retirement.  He believes checkpoints have reduced crashes in his district, so he opposed the new language.

“[Checkpoints] are an efficient way to reduce intoxicated or impaired drivers on our highways,” said Higdon.

Representative Justin Hill supports language in the House's FY '18 budget proposal that would discourage DUI checkpoints for what he believes are more effective efforts. (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)
Representative Justin Hill supports language in the House’s FY ’18 budget proposal that would discourage DUI checkpoints for what he believes are more effective efforts. (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

Representative Kathie Conway (R-St. Charles) chairs the budget subcommittee on Public Safety.  She said when the idea to bar state funds from going to checkpoints came up she heard from numerous law enforcement agencies, victims groups, anti-drunk driving groups, and others who opposed the change and were “upset” about it.

She said checkpoints and saturation efforts can work in conjunction, and said the latter actually work better when the two are used together.

“While [saturation efforts] are good methods as well, a lot of them hinge on DUI checkpoints because it drives people nearby to avoid the checkpoints,” said Conway.

Proponents of the change also said there are questions of whether checkpoints violate Missourians’ rights, and said saturation efforts are also more effective at dealing with other violations of the law besides impaired driving.

If the language becomes law, nothing in Missouri law would prevent law enforcement agencies from conducting checkpoints.  They simply would not be able to use money allocated by the state budget to do so.

The House’s proposed budget plan next goes to the state Senate for its consideration.