Kansas bill could change DUI penalties - KCTV5

Kansas bill could change DUI penalties

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TOPEKA, KS (KCTV) -

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, by the time a person is arrested for drunken driving the first time, they've actually done it at least 80 times.

The penalties in Kansas are steep, but the time a conviction stays on a person's record could be cut in half and it's not sitting well with many people.

"I don't agree with them. As a father who lost a son to a drunk driver, an only son, with a repeat offender. And I don't agree with it as a former drunk driver," said Scott Grandon.

Grandon, of Paola, KS, will never forget the day he lost his beloved son Jason in a drunken driving accident nearly 10 years ago.

"It happened just down the road. I had the windows open. I knew there was a wreck. When I saw the deputies, I knew he was done. I knew he was gone," Grandon said.

It was May 19, 2002 when Jason and a group of friends were in a truck coming down the hill. The driver lost control and, by the time it was finished rolling, the truck ended up far down the road.

Grandon's life was never the same.

"It's every day. It doesn't just come with the holidays. It comes, for me, it comes every day. When I walk down that hallway, I walk by his room. In the morning, at night I sit in that chair, it was right where he sat," he said.

Currently in Kansas there is a 10-year wait to appeal to the court to have a DUI conviction expunged from a person's record. What's upsetting Grandon and others is that wait could be cut in half.

House Bill 2662, introduced by Rep. Jack Thimesch, a Republican representing the 114th District, would knock the wait down to five years. He said it's only fair in the long run.

"If we don't back up and let them look at their life in five years and we hold them to 10, it's almost like you cut their leg off. We're not letting them get back up and get back into society and working again. It's gonna benefit the person who made the first mistake," Thimesch said.

But Chriss Mann with Mothers Against Drunk Driving said it's not just a first mistake.

"A first time DUI throughout the state is usually granted a diversion and that means that the conviction will not show up for employers and will not be required to be disclosed by the applicant if they are in fact trying to gain employment. So this is for repeat offenders who are actually convicted of drunk driving," Mann said.

The organization actually has support from the committee chair where the bill was introduced, Rep. John Rubin, a Republican representing the 18th District.

"Another youthful indiscretion might be something that you wouldn't want to mar their permanent record. When they're putting lives at risk, as drunk drivers do every time they get behind the wheel, that's not the opportunity or the time to lessen either the penalty or the expungement period," Rubin said.

For Grandon, a bill like HB 2662 is why he fights against drunken driving, not just for his family, but for all families.

"I'll fight off my back all day long if that's what it takes. I would rather fight the fight and lose it than to not fight it," he said.

The bill right now is with the Judiciary Committee. They may consider pairing it with another bill this week or after the Legislature reconvenes at the end of the month.

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