Mississippi Governor to Sign Bill Strengthening DUI Laws

Phil Bryant, the current Republican governor of Mississippi, intends to sign a bill aimed at strengthening state laws against drunk driving.  The bill is expected to hit Bryant’s desk within the next several days and would become a law on July 1, 2013 with his signature.

The bill would cause someone convicted of a first-offense DUI to have their driver’s license suspended for 90 days, or a judge could order a 30-day license suspension and require the person to use an ignition interlock device for six months.  The bill also would make the fourth offense DUI automatically be a felony charge which would carry two to ten years in prison.  Under the new law, it would no longer matter how many years had passed between the previous convictions and the fourth one.  Currently under Mississippi law, a person can face a felony charge by having three or more DUI convictions within five years.

The bill is sponsored by House Speaker Philip Gunn, whose parents and sister were killed by a drunk driver 30 years ago.  Mark Formby, one of the co-sponsors, also faced tragedy when his young niece was killed two months ago when her parent’s car was hit by a driver who had previous DUI convictions.

Gunn told reporters last week that he considers this bill one of the top accomplishments of the 2013 legislative session, which ended last Thursday.

The final version of the bill passed the House 112-4 and the Senate 52-0.