Gov weighs car-seizure bill

Finding sites to store drunken
drivers’ vehicles is an issue

A bill that would punish repeat drunken-driving offenders by letting the state seize their vehicles is in the hands of Gov. Linda Lingle.

Whether she signs it has not been decided.

"We're still reviewing the bill," said Transportation Department spokesman Scott Ishikawa.

The administration originally supported House Bill 919, Senate Draft 2, when the responsibility of seizing and storing vehicles fell to county police departments.

State officials raised concerns after Senate Judiciary Chairwoman Colleen Hanabusa changed the proposal to give that responsibility to the Department of Transportation.

"We have some serious concerns about the storage issue," Ishikawa said. "We're not sure if we have any property where we can store these seized vehicles."

Hanabusa had said it was disingenuous for the state to support the bill when the responsibility belonged to someone else, noting that the Honolulu Police Department had always opposed the measure because of a lack of enforcement personnel and storage space.

House leaders approved the Senate's changes Thursday and sent the bill to Lingle for consideration.

"It's actually a better approach," said House Judiciary Chairwoman Sylvia Luke (D, Pacific Heights-Punchbowl). "DOT has always come in and supported the bill, so if they support the bill they should support it wholeheartedly."

Under the proposal, those convicted of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol three times in a five-year span would forfeit their vehicles. The forfeiture also would apply to those charged with habitual DUI -- a fourth DUI charge on top of three convictions within a 10-year span.

Ishikawa said the department is trying to determine how many cars would be affected.

Repeat offenders already face penalties including community service, fines, license suspension or revocation and prison.

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