LEGISLATURE 2011: Senate panel takes up Nevada DUI laws

CARSON CITY (AP) - Emotions were raw Wednesday as a panel of Nevada lawmakers began discussion of a bill to clarify language in existing law and ensure all drunken drivers who kill or injure someone spend at least two years in prison.

SB72 follows an investigation by a Reno newspaper that found at least 40 of the 113 of drivers convicted of killing or injuring someone since 2000 spent only months behind bars before being released under house arrest and a monitoring program.

After the newspaper's investigation last year, eight offenders were sent back to prison.

One of them was 21-year-old Jessica Winkle. Her father, Gary Winkle, told the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that his daughter is not a demon.

"She was just a young girl who made a mistake," he said, testifying against the bill.

But Laurel Stadler, with the Northern Nevada DUI Task Force, told the panel that drinking and driving is not a mistake, it's a crime.

"A young man was killed," Stadler said. Winkle's crash killed Hudson Post, 21, on Sept. 20, 2008. "How hurtful is it for the parents of these victims to see the offenders at the grocery store?"

Committee Chairwoman Valerie Wiener, D-Las Vegas, said the panel would review more material before taking action on the bill.

It is among about a half dozen bills that will be heard during the 2011 legislative session dealing with DUI laws and penalties.

Jessica Winkle was one of six who served three or four months before being let out on a program that requires offenders to seek treatment, hold jobs or go to school, the newspaper reported. Offenders also are monitored daily for alcohol and must wear ankle bracelets.

Winkle's lawyers have filed a request with the Nevada Supreme Court to clarify that the law allows house arrest. They also are seeking an order for Winkle's release.


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