College binge drinking and DUIs were the topics of discussion Friday morning during a Senate Law and Justice committee hearing.
The committee heard testimony from college and university interests about problematic drinking by students on and around college campuses. Drinking, they said, that contributes to health, safety, and education issues.
Lawmakers also heard testimony on a bill sponsored by Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley. SB 5023 would allow for college DUI courts. Currently, county or municipal courts handle college and university students charged with DUI. If passed, the bill would allow counties to establish and operate special DUI courts specifically to deal with students. The bill would also allow municipalities to enter into cooperative agreements with counties to provide those DUI court services.
Don Pierce, executive director of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, came to speak about the bill. He said that while student drinking may be a problem, the drinking is often off-campus and college-age drinkers may be more responsible about drinking and driving than other drivers. He also said that, at least anecdotally, he believes that students stopped for DUI are typically worried less about the legal ramifications from the infraction, and more worried about if their parents or school will find out.
Sen. Pam Roach, R-Auburn, said she was glad to hear Pierce talk about parents.
“Parents are the ones that have the greatest amount of impact,” Roach said. “I really think it’d be nice to have maybe some of these education establishments and someone with your incredible experience to sit down and see what you can do to somehow find a way, little niche here or there, that parents will be notified.”
Sen. Jeannie Darneille, D-Tacoma, had concerns with the bill.
“We’re really talking here about a court on a college campus… that includes potential sanctions that involve a benefit or a purchased entity that that student may make on that campus. I am extremely worried about that concept. “
The bill allows for colleges to impose sanctions including, but not limited to, withholding a student’s diploma until they have successfully completed a college DUI court.
Olympia citizen activist Arthur West had his own concerns about the bill. He called the bill paternalistic and said that the bill is classist. He also said that a college DUI court using “big brother tactics” was not the way to deal with a culture problem.
“I don’t think granting special privileges and immunities to a favored class – that of college students – is a constitutionally viable means either.”