Alcohol bill hits
young drivers

A Senate panel passes the
measure to revoke a minor's
license if caught with booze

Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona urged lawmakers yesterday to pass a proposal to suspend the driver's license of anyone under 21 who is caught with alcohol.

The suspension would be imposed regardless of whether the person was driving while in possession of the alcohol.

"For some of our young people, there's certainly things in the law that they really pay attention to," Aiona told members of the Senate Transportation and Government Operations Committee.

"Once they find out that if you're caught with liquor -- and you don't have to be driving -- or you consume liquor, your license will be suspended, that will get around very quickly," he added.

The committee advanced the administration's bill by a 5-0 vote.

A minor without a driver's license who is caught with alcohol would be barred from getting a license until age 18 or for 90 days, whichever is longer.

"If you're drinking at that age, you obviously should not be given that privilege of driving," Aiona said.

The proposal was supported by the Department of Education, the Honolulu Police Department, the Honolulu Prosecutor's Office and Mothers Against Drunk Driving-Hawaii, among others.

Opponents included the state Office of the Public Defender, which said the proposal oversimplifies the problem of underage drinking and unfairly punishes youths without giving them a chance to redeem themselves.

For example, if a 15-year-old were found in possession of alcohol, "this bill would not allow this 15-year-old to redeem himself and demonstrate himself responsible and mature enough to obtain a license prior to age 18," the defender's office said in written testimony.

Sen. Donna Mercado Kim (D, Kalihi Valley-Halawa) suggested the bill be expanded to include drug possession as another punishable offense, a change that Aiona said he would agree to.

The bill still faces a hearing before the Senate Judiciary and Hawaiian Affairs Committee and a vote before the full Senate before moving to the House for consideration.

Also yesterday, the Transportation and Government Operations and Intergovernmental Affairs committees shelved a proposal to have the state Department of Transportation set up cameras at intersections to catch red-light runners.

A similar measure has been advancing in the House.

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