Individuals awaiting trial for driving under the influence of alcohol and other drugs could enroll in an alternative diversion program under a bill amended and advanced from select file April 27.
LB271, sponsored by Lincoln Sen. Adam Morfeld, would authorize county-level 24/7 sobriety programs created by the sheriff or a designated entity.
Under the bill, a person awaiting trial for driving under the influence could join a voluntary 24/7 sobriety program as a condition of bail and submit to twice-daily sobriety testing or use of a continuous alcohol monitoring device. Participants would agree not to consume alcohol or any drug not prescribed by a physician while enrolled in the program.
An individual who violates a program’s terms would face immediate sanctions as established in their participation agreement. A sixth violation would result in immediate expulsion from the program and exclusion from further participation.
LB271 also would authorize a special motor vehicle operating permit for individuals enrolled in a 24/7 sobriety program. The permit would be subject to court approval, a $45 issuance fee and at least 30 consecutive days in the program without sanction.
The bill was amended on general file to limit permit eligibility to individuals whose operator’s license has been revoked related to the current pending offense. An individual would not be eligible if they are subject to a different suspension, cancellation or revocation of their license or are under a required no-driving period.
An individual with a 24/7 sobriety permit who is found to be driving under the influence or who refuses a chemical test would be guilty of a Class IV felony, punishable by up to two years imprisonment with 12 months post-release supervision, a $10,000 fine or both.
Morfeld brought an amendment on select file to lower the penalty for failing or refusing a chemical test from a Class IV felony to a Class III misdemeanor, punishable by up to three months imprisonment, a $500 fine or both.
He said the amendment would bring the penalty in line with that imposed for similar violations involving ignition interlock devices.
Elmwood Sen. Robert Clements expressed concern that the reduced penalty would not be an adequate deterrent for repeat offenders.
Following the 27-11 adoption of the Morfeld amendment, senators advanced LB271 to final reading by voice vote.