Police are for it. A lot of lawmakers are for it. This week, leaders in the county where Dustin Ledford's family lives put the full weight of their approval behind a bill that would make it easier for Tennessee authorities to bring the law to bear more harshly on individuals suspected of causing a fatal accident while driving impaired.
Members of the Bradley County Commission in Cleveland unanimously approved a resolution calling on the General Assembly to pass the bill dubbed Dustin's Law, and for the governor to sign the measure into law. It's one more piece of evidence that acknowledges the outrage society feels about drunk driving and the need for someone charged under the state's drunk driving laws to enlist the help of an experienced attorney.
Many readers may be familiar with the background on the bill. It's named for Dustin Ledford who was killed in July 2010 in a head-on collision on a Tennessee highway. He was 24. The 29-year-old woman who was arrested and eventually convicted for driving down the wrong side of the road and causing the accident reportedly had three times the legal limit of alcohol in her system and drugs.
Under current state law, a person cannot be charged with aggravated vehicular homicide in circumstances where the suspect doesn't have a prior DUI conviction. Under the new law, a first-time offender causing a fatal accident could be charged with aggravated vehicular homicide if their blood alcohol concentration measures 0.20 percent or higher, or if the BAC level is 0.08 percent and a presence of methamphetamine. The penalty for conviction would also essentially double from the current 8 to 12 years in prison.
At last check, bills were progressing through both the Tennessee House and Senate and are currently before various committees.
This post is offered not as a position piece on the merits of the bill. Rather, it is simply a reminder that pressures to counter drunk driving are rising. When that happens, individuals, who are supposed to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, often are painted with a broad brush of guilt before they've had their day in court. That being the case, it's all the more important for those facing DUI-related vehicular homicide charges to have the benefit of experienced counsel.
Sources: The Chattanoogan, "Bradley County Commission Pass Resolution To Support Dustin's Law," Tonya Brantley, March 5, 2013; WTVC-TV, "Mother Lobbies For 'Dustin's Law'," Jerry Askin, Jan. 28, 2013