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Hello, Happy New Year! Hope this one is treating you well.
2020 was a rough one for sure. What's nice about it is, when things hit the bottom, the only place they can go is up. That was my experience getting a DUI, and that's the attitude I'm taking with me into 2021. We'll see how long it lasts.Changing Laws
The first day of January usually involves a lot of changing laws, more often than not bringing the hammer down on DUI offenders harder, but that wasn't the case this year. As legislatures were unable to meet or otherwise occupied by the pandemic, DUI offenders weren't in the crosshairs for once. A nice feeling.
Instead the theme of this year's new laws: Justice Reform
After the George Floyd incident and protests the tide shifted in this country, whether you agree with those sentiments towards police or not, and legislators acted in response (it was an election year, after all).(Again standard legal disclaimer here: I'm not a lawyer, and I'm definitely not your lawyer, any analysis of this is me just trying to piece things together from the news/bills and I don't know the full ins-and-outs of how all this goes down. I'm giving you my best idea, however)Arizona
Legalized recreational marijuana - can still get a DUI-Drugs.CaliforniaAB 3234 - Allows misdemeanor DUIs to become eligible for diversion. Once diversion is completed, the crime doesn't stick to your record.
I haven't gotten into the nuts-and-bolts of this one (these types of programs aren't laid out beforehand), but I'm guessing it's a lot like other programs - fines, probation, meetings - a lot of what you already do when convicted - and they seal your record automatically once it's done. No longer does a non-expunged DUI
hang over your head for ten years. I'm guessing it'll still be prior-able since they love to be able to still stick it to you when they have a chance, and it'll stay on your DMV record so you're not getting a break on insurance.
That said - it's a great step forward. A DUI doesn't need to ruin somebody's life, it needs to teach them a lesson. Most of us have learned ours from the feeling of seeing police lights in the rearview.
The big caveat of this: It won't apply to a DUI you already have. If you've been convicted you'll still have to apply for an expungement the old fashioned way.AB 1076 - Under this law, the state will automatically clear records for arrests that did not result in conviction after the statute of limitations has passed, and those around probation and jail once the sentence is completed.
This goes hand-in-hand nicely with the other law - if you don't receive diversion (it's up to the judge) and get convicted as you would have prior, your records will be sealed as if you got an expungement. This saves you the time and money of the process (which was difficult for me, and I plan to write about soon).
It's also nice to see a clearing of the arrest that doesn't lead to convictions - a lot of people think that if they get off then everything is fine, but an arrest still shows up on your record. That will no longer be the case.
However, like before, this only applies to arrests/and convictions after Jan 1, 2021.
Prop 17 - If your previous DUI was a felony, you may be eligible to regain your right to vote (it's insane that we take away voting rights like this in the first place).Montana
Legalized recreational marijuana - can still get a DUI-Drugs.New Hampshire
Commercial truck drivers - or anyone driving a vehicle weighting 10,001 lbs or more, will automatically have their DWI upgraded to an Aggravated DWI, which carries a larger fine (up to $750 from $500, but don't think that's what you'll be paying
) and a mandatory minimum of 17 days in jail (12 days will be suspended if the driver submits to a substance use disorder evaluation). Additionally, those commercial drivers who refuse to submit to a breathalyzer will have their commercial license suspended immediately instead of having that little bit of wiggle time before it was suspended.
Harsh. Commercial drivers used to be subject to the same laws as ordinary drivers, but no longer.New Jersey
Legalized recreational marijuana - can still get a DUI-Drugs.Pennsylvania
A "Move Over" law was enacted - if an emergency vehicle is at the side of the road, you need to move over a lane away from them or slow down to 20 MPH under the speed limit. Give them some space or police will have a reasonable cause to pull you over.South Dakota
Legalized recreational marijuana - can still get a DUI-Drugs.Virginia
As of 1/1/21 - You can't drive while holding a cell phone. Only related to DUIs because it gives a reasonable cause to pull somebody over.Traveling
Tangentially related to DUI issues is the Real ID card - it was supposed to be required to fly this previous years, but in interest of keeping DMVs less crowded and/or closed, they delayed it until October. You'll need a Real ID compliant license to step on an airplane. So, if your license was suspended you'll either need to use a Passport, or get a Real ID state ID card to get on board. If you are getting a new license after suspension, be sure to get a Real ID compliant license. If you've just gotten one, then you either need a passport or have to go through the renewal process/fee again.
These are all the ones related/semi-related to drinking and driving that I could find. Has your state issued one I missed? Let me know!