In honor of slain Lexington attorney and bicyclist Mark Hinkel, state Rep. Kelly Flood, D-Lexington, prefiled a bill Thursday to increase the likelihood that repeated drunk driving will result in a felony charge.
The bill revives previous efforts to extend Kentucky's "look-back period" for previous DUI offenses from five years to 10, meaning a fourth DUI during a 10-year period would be a felony punishable by one to five years in prison.
Hinkel, 57, was cycling in the Horsey Hundred event on May 23 in Scott County when he was hit by an oncoming truck whose driver allegedly was drunk, according to police. Hinkel landed on the truck bed cover, and the driver went about 3 miles with Hinkel on the cover before the truck was stopped by police.
Odilon Paz-Salvador, 29, has been charged with murder and has pleaded not guilty.
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Paz-Salvador told officers after his arrest that he had nine previous DUIs, most older than five years.
The fourth DUI during a five-year period is a felony in Kentucky, but after five years, a person's DUI count resets. As a result, a driver could be charged every five years, and each time it would be the driver's first offense.
Without the five-year reset, Paz-Salvador would have been in prison, and Mark Hinkel would be alive today, said Bennett Bayer, Hinkel's friend and a fellow lawyer.
"The Hinkel family fully supports the efforts of Kelly Flood and other Kentucky legislators who are willing to take this cause and either pass this amendment, or any similar legislation, that will assure that tragedies such as what happened to Mark will not occur again," said Mary-Lynn Hinkel, Mark Hinkel's wife.
Flood said her bill would make it easier for law enforcement to identify habitual DUI offenders.
"Kentucky has made a lot of strides over the years in making our roads safer, and my hope is that this proposal will be the next step," Flood said. "Five years is not long enough. It should be 10."
Flood's bill is identical to a bill that state Sen. Dennis Parrett, D-Elizabethtown, tried to get passed in the 2015 legislative session. Parrett prefiled the same bill for the 2016 legislative session.
Parrett's bill stems from the 2014 death of Brianna Taylor, 17, who was on her way home with a friend when Michael Hilton, who was allegedly driving drunk, ran a red light and struck Taylor's car. It was Hilton's sixth DUI charge, and he was three times above the legal limit, Parrett said. Hilton's murder trial began Wednesday.
Parrett said his DUI bill did not get passed last session because of a math error in the prison impact statement — an analysis of how the bill will affect correctional facilities' populations and operating costs.
Parrett said he is not blaming anyone for the "simple mistake."
Unfortunately for bill supporters, by the time the error was found, it was too late for the bill to be passed.
"I don't expect any issues whatsoever this year," Parrett said. Flood and Parrett will be working together to get the DUI bill passed.
Currently, there are seven prefiled bills for the 2016 legislative session, two of which are Flood's and Parrett's DUI bills.
When the state House and Senate convene in January, both bills will be waiting.
"I want to make sure that people like Mark and Brianna, and especially those in vulnerable situations like bicyclists and motorcyclists, are not put at undue risk while they are on the road," Flood said. "If someone has multiple DUIs, they need to face a longer review time before their driving record is cleared. The worst need to be behind bars, not driving."