The state House on Wednesday honored the family of Lexington attorney Mark Hinkel, who was killed last year by an allegedly drunken driver during a cycling event in Scott County, and then approved a bill to crack down on habitual drunk drivers.
On a 98-0 vote, the House signed off on an amended version of Senate Bill 56, which would expand what is known in legal circles as the “look back period” for prior DUI offenses from five to 10 years.
In Kentucky, the fourth DUI conviction in a five-year period is treated as a felony. The bill would increase that period to 10 years.
The bill is sponsored by Sen. Dennis Parrett, D-Elizabethtown, and is named after Brianna Taylor of Hardin County. She was 17 when she was killed by a drunk driver. Michael Hilton was found guilty of murder and DUI and sentenced to life in prison..
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Parrett said it was the sixth time Hilton had been charged with driving under the influence. But Hilton’s last drunken-driving conviction, occurred more than five years before the accident, so the latest charge was considered his first under Kentucky law.
House members gave Taylor’s family, which was seated in the gallery, a standing ovation after the vote.
Democratic state Rep. Kelly Flood of Lexington, who handled SB 56 in the House, said the driver who struck Hinkel — Odilon Paz-Salvador — had eight prior DUI offenses, five of which occurred more than five years ago. He is awaiting trial in Scott County.
Rep. Robert Benvenuti, R-Lexington, spoke emotionally on the House floor about Hinkel, saying he was a skilled lawyer, athlete and husband for 35 years.
The only spoken concern about the bill came from Rep. Johnny Bell, D-Glasgow, who said a 10-year look-back window goes against the idea of redemption.
He said he doubted if expanding the window will change anything and did not vote on the bill.
The measure now goes back to the Senate for its consideration because the House made several technical corrections to it. The bill contains an emergency clause that would allow it to go into effect with the governor’s signature once the Senate has approved it.