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Bill calls for drunk drivers to attend victim impact panels

A lawmaker in Missouri introduced a bill on Dec. 8 that would require individuals who have entered a plea of guilty or have been found guilty of drunk driving to take part in victim impact panels. Missouri Rep. Mike Kelly says the goal of the bill is to educate offenders and provide a degree of closure for the relatives of drunk driving victims. The proposed effective date of House Bill 1436, which is also known as Toby's Law, is August 2016.

The bill is named after a man who was killed in 2007 by a motorist who was driving while intoxicated. The man's mother also lost her life in the accident. The man's sister, who is representative Kelly's assistant, and father survived the crash. Kelly says that his assistant's experience and her faith in victim impact panels provided the impetus for him to propose the measure.

Kelly believes that victim impact panels can help drunk drivers to understand how quickly reckless actions can lead to tragedy. Kelly says that organizations such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, local municipalities and college campuses all conduct the panels, which are made up of members of emergency services organizations as well as the families of drunk driving accident victims.

The penalties for driving drunk can be severe in Missouri, and even first-time offenders face a mandatory suspension of their driving privileges and possible incarceration. Toxicology test results are usually relied upon to establish intoxication in these cases, but they could be unreliable in certain situations. Criminal defense attorneys may seek to have the results of a breath test ruled inadmissible if the equipment used was not properly maintained and regularly calibrated. Even blood test results could be excluded if the sample used was handled incorrectly. Toxicology results may also be affected by certain medical conditions.

Source: The Missouri Times, Rep. Mike Kelley Files Legislation to Create Toby's Law, Dec. 7, 2015

Source: The Missouri House of Representatives, H.B. 1436, Accessed Dec. 17, 2015

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