More than two dozen government officials, prosecutors, and law enforcement officers from throughout the state gathered in Jefferson City on Wednesday to take part in a summit targeting gaps in Missouri’s DWI laws. Governor Jay Nixon opened the conference, telling attendees he wants to make sure that Missourians are protected against those who drink and drive, and that steps be taken to ensure the offenders pay for their crimes.
“Those steps also should ensure that when a law says that offenders should lose their licenses they do,” Nixon told the gathering in his opening comments. “We want to make sure that when police and prosecutors encounter a repeat DWI offender they know it – they have that information – because that offender’s priors are in the system and accessible to those law enforcement officers. The status quo on DWI is not acceptable.”
A big concern is that there is little or no sharing of pertinent information on DWI offenders.
“Police and prosecutors are unable to properly share information with one another and often face roadblocks in being able to communicate,” said Nixon. “Basic information about priors simply is not making it through the system in an efficient and effective way.”
As each of the attendees offered thoughts on how best to deal with the problem it became clear communication – or a lack of it – is a major problem for law enforcement and its effort to stop repeat drunk drivers.
“I was thinking, well, what are the things that we could most do to correct things?” asked Cape Girardeau County Prosecutor Morley Swingle before answering his own question. “The number one thing – if nothing else is done – the number one thing is to make finding DWI priors so easy that even a caveman could do it.”
Swingle is not alone in wondering why it is so difficult to relay information on DWI arrests and convictions.
“If somebody can steal my identity from Sri Lanka, we certainly can figure out some kind of reporting system that we can get all our information into one data base,” said Mike Boland of Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
The ideas presented at the gathering are being forwarded to state lawmakers for their consideration in crafting new DWI legislation for the upcoming session of the General Assembly.