Extreme DUI limits lowered<BR>

Drunken drivers caught on county roads or highways with a blood alcohol level of .15 or higher face harsher penalties with Gov.

Jane Hull's signing of a bill Wednesday to lower the extreme DUI limit from .18.

The bill will go into effect immediately because of an emergency clause by the state Legislature.

Arizona Department of Pubic Safety Lt.

John Tibbetts said he was pleased by the lower extreme DUI limits, but hoped the state would go a step further and also lower the overall legal DUI blood alcohol level from .10 to .08.

"It will discourage drunk drivers and will have some effect on DUI rates," Tibbetts said of the lower extreme DUI limits.

"Anything to discourage drivers from drinking and driving is a positive thing."

The penalty for an extreme misdemeanor DUI is a mandatory 10 days in jail.

A non-extreme DUI sentence is a mandatory day in jail, County Attorney Bill Ekstrom said.

Ekstrom, however, said he does not believe the lower limits on extreme DUI cases would inundate the court system or the jail.

"It wouldn't effect us tremendously," Ekstrom said.

"It wouldn't catch any more people.

The ones that are caught would just spend more time in jail and that's the way it should be."

Kingman police Lt.

Ray Sipe said the new law would not affect the patrol officer on the street as far as citing a drunk driver.

A DUI would be a misdemeanor whether it is .10 or .30, Sipe said.

However, a drunk driver would face an aggravated felony DUI if the driver had more than three felony DUIs in the past five years, if the driver had his license suspended for a previous felony DUI, or was stopped for a DUI with a child under the age of 15 in the car, he said.

Felony DUIs could see a first time offender get anywhere from four months to three years and nine months in prison.

Roughly one-third of the 125-150 DUI arrests each year in Kingman are extreme DUIs, Sipe said.

According statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about 38 percent of all fatal accidents in the country in 1999 involved alcohol.

In Arizona that same year, about 25 percent of fatal accidents involved alcohol.