A proposed bill could give prosecutors across Kentucky more teeth in convicting repeat DUI and domestic assault offenders.
3rd District State Representative Gerald Watkins is sponsoring the bill crafted by Assistant McCracken County Attorney Todd Jones.
The bill would allow attorneys to present more detail in misdemeanor jury trials. Currently, prosecutors are only allowed to show juries a defendant’s prior record limited within the last five years. Jones says too often repeat DUI offenders are able to slip through the cracks.
“I’m allowed to show people that they’ve had a certain number of DUIs within a five year window, but what they don’t know is that the person may have had six more DUIs outside of that five year window," said Jones. "So somebody could be charged with DUI first or second offense, but it may be their 8th DUI.”
“Another crime that I think this would help with is assault for domestic violence," said Jones. "Generally, defendants charged with that crime have other crimes in their history that are not shown to the jury. Giving that enlightenment to the jury could help in sentencing and give some protection to some victims who otherwise wouldn’t get any.”
The bill would also split the trial into two phases: the first to determine guilt or innocence, and the second for punishment. Currently misdemeanor juries must make both determinations simultaneously.
Jones says the proposal has received widespread support from members of the law enforcement community. This is his first law proposal to apply to the entire state.
Rep. Watkins says he plans to lay out the bill when the General Assembly convenes in January.