By Adam Droge
SALT LAKE CITY — The members of the House Law and Criminal Justice Committee passed a bill March 4 that would modify a rule governing driver’s license suspensions and sanctions.
Rep. John Knotwell, R-Herriman, said, “We have several laws related to minors in possession or consumption of alcohol, and the preferred remedy is to suspend their driver’s license because it has proven to be an effective deterrent.”
Knotwell, the bill’s sponsor, clarified that this has nothing to do with drinking and driving, but rather it has to do with penalizing underage drinkers caught with alcohol.
He explained that under the current law, the penalty for the first offense is to suspend the license for one year, with an option stating that the suspension can be reduced if the minor is willing to take a substance abuse course. Upon a second offense, however, the current law requires a non-flexible two-year suspension of the driver’s license.
“The punishment of this law is not only too severe, it’s unjust and can take promising futures and destroy them,” Knotwell said while advocating for the woman who had suggested the bill to him. “It can set young people so far behind at such a critical time in their lives that they may ultimately give up and just become another case for law enforcement in the welfare system to deal with.”
The purpose of HB137 is to relax the punishment for a second offense. Instead of having a non-flexible, two-year penalty, the minor would have the option of getting the license back after being alcohol free for one year.
Knotwell clarified that this doesn’t force the courts to give the license back after one year but rather gives the judge the option to do so.
Rep. Dana Layton, R-Orem, said, “I do support the flexibility, and I think it’s probably better than the way the law is now.”
The committee passed the bill unanimously, and now it will move forward to the House floor for further consideration.