New laws get tough on drinking
Police in Hawaii have three new weapons in the fight against drunken drivers and underage drinkers.
Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona, standing in for Gov. Linda Lingle, who is on the mainland, signed into law yesterday three measures to increase the penalties for drunken drivers and for anyone under 21 who drinks, buys or possesses alcohol.
"As parents and as community leaders, we can no longer view underage drinking as a minor infraction or 'rite of passage' for our teens," Aiona said. "By condoning underage drinking, we are sanctioning illegal behavior and perpetuating a destructive cycle for our youth."
The first measure, House Bill 2639, adds the designation of "highly intoxicated driver" to the list of drunken-driving offenses.
Under the new law, a driver with a blood-alcohol level above 0.15 will be considered "highly intoxicated." Violators will automatically lose their license for six months without the chance to get a conditional driving permit. The current legal blood-alcohol level is 0.08. The measure goes into effect July 1, 2007.
A second law, House Bill 3242, adjusts the underage-drinking law by adding "consumption" and "ingestion" of alcohol to the list of prohibited activities for those under 21.
Aiona said the "new law will make it possible for law enforcement officers to address situations where a person under 21 has illegally consumed alcohol but is not caught possessing or purchasing it."
Those under 18 will be subject to the jurisdiction of the Family Court, and those between 18 and 21 may be charged with a petty misdemeanor. The new law takes effect immediately.
And finally, Aiona also signed into law Senate Bill 706, dubbed the "use and lose" law.
It would suspend the driver's license of those under 21 who illegally purchase, possess or consume alcohol for half a year. Violators who do not already have a license could have their eligibility postponed for 180 days or until they turn 17 years old. All violators under the law will be required to complete 75 hours of community service and attend up to 12 hours of alcohol counseling.
"The 'use and lose' law makes it very clear to teens that if they are underage and they drink, they will lose their driver's license and the freedom that comes along with it," Aiona said. The law goes into effect Jan. 1.
Tougher penalties for illegal drinking
Under three bills signed into law yesterday:
» Drivers with a blood-alcohol level of 0.15 or higher will be classified as "highly intoxicated" and automatically have their driver's licenses and registrations suspended. Effective: July 1, 2007.
» "Consumption" and "ingestion" of alcohol are added to the list of prohibitions for those under 21. State statutes had previously outlawed only "purchasing" and "possessing" alcohol. Effective: immediately.
» Any person under 21 who illegally purchases, possesses or consumes alcohol will lose the right to drive for at least 180 days. Violators who do not already have a license could have their eligibility postponed for 180 days or until they turn 17 years old. Effective: Jan. 1.
Star-Bulletin reporter Richard Borreca and the Associated Press contributed to this report.