“Dustin’s Law” was returned to the Capitol steps in Nashville Monday as the parents of the 24-year-old who was killed in a DUI-related crash three years ago attempts to kick-start the move to pass tougher DUI laws.
“I prayed when Dustin was killed that somehow God would use me and make me available,” said Kim Ledford, mother of the young man for whom the bill is named. “I didn’t want Dustin to have died in vain. I didn’t want him to become just another statistic.”
Ledford and a group of friends and family from Cleveland were at a press conference pushing for the passage of the law which was introduced by state Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland, and state Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, last year.
Both Watson and Gardenhire attended the media event.
Currently, the harshest sentences go to drivers with a blood-alcohol level three times the legal limit and a prior DUI.
The proposed law would remove the prior-DUI stipulation and add similar sentencing for drivers with a blood alcohol level of .08 and methamphetamine in their system.
A conviction could place a person behind bars for 16-20 years.
The added cost to the state budget is projected to be $445,000 because of the number of increased incarcerations, which has stalled the bill in finance committees.
State Rep. William Lamberth, R-Cottontown, a member of both the House Criminal Justice Committee and the Criminal Justice Subcommittee, spoke at the conference in support of the bill’s passage.
“When you’ve heard these families’ stories and you’ve had to look into their eyes, when you’ve had to hold these mothers as they shake and tremor from the pain that they’ve felt from having a child stolen from them, it’s worth it,” said Lamberth, who is also a co-sponsor of the bill in the state House.
Supportive legislators are hoping a budget amendment can be passed that will fund the related costs of the bill.
However, the most recent committee calendars posted by the Legislature do not show the bill as being on any agenda for discussion in the immediate future.
Additional details from Monday’s press conference will be provided in Wednesday’s edition of the Cleveland Daily Banner.