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About The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current | View Entire Issue (Nov. 21, 1996)
DWI law changes at standstill
Pardons board questions legality, waits on repeatoffender reviews
By Matthew Waite
Douglas Hansen may not have
won his driver’s license back Tues
day, but he is still sober and will
continue to fight to get back the
privilege he lost after his third DWI
conviction six years ago.
“My life is a hell of a lot better
today than when I was drinking,”
he said after a pardons board meet
ing at the State Capitol. “I wouldn’t
give that up, license or no license.”
Hansen was one of 18 who peti
tioned the Nebraska Board of Par
dons to end their 15-year driver’s
license suspensions for multiple
In a three-hour hearing that did
more to preview the spring session
of the Nebraska Legislature than to
pardon refamed drunken drivers,
the board voted unanimously to
hold off on deciding any cases until
lawmakers have a chance to try and
fix the problem.
At issue is a January Nebraska
Supreme Court ruling that declared
unconstitutional a law allowing
judges to review 15-year DWI li
cense suspensions after five years.
The ruling stated the law gave
judges the power to grant pardons,
which is the constitutional power of
the pardons board.*
The result has been a glut of.
cases going to the board —18 on
Wednesday and more than 300 that
also potentially could have come
before the board. In Nebraska, ac
cording to the Department of Mo
tor Vehicles, there are 3,35915-year
license suspensions — 349 with
Attorney General Don Stenberg
said the board — made up of
Stenberg, Gov. Ben Nelson and Sec
retary of State Scott Moore —■
would see an increase of more than
40 hours per week of work for DWI
“I don’t think there is any other
choice but to send this back to the
Legislature,” Stenberg said. “I don’t
think there is any practical way to
deal with this problem.”
The board agreed to send the
issue back to the Legislature and
said they would outline some areas
lawmakers could examine based on
testimony given to them Tuesday.
Some of those issues included:
• Stiffening jail terms for DWI
• Making the penalties for first
and second offense DWI tougher.
• Establishing some sort of ad
ministrative review of 15-year sus
pension cases after five years, re
moving the responsibility from the
Diane Riibe, who represented
Mothers Against Drunk Driving,
said her organization opposed the
pardoning of any repeat drunken
“Is it fair to the victims (of
drunken-driving accidents)? It is not
fair to the victims,” she said. “Does -
it take away their hope? Absolutely,
it takes away their hope.”
Riibe said someone injured in a
drunken-driving accident could not
apply to have a sentence reduced.
She did say, however, that MADD
would favor some of the issues
brought before the board, such as
stiffening penalties on first and sec
ond drunken-driving offenses.
Hansen told the board he had
been sober for six years with the
help of God and Alcoholics Anony
mous. After his third conviction, he
sobered up, got an engineering de
gree and got married.
After the meeting, Hansen said
he was disappointed by the board’s
decision, but he was not discour
aged. He said he was hopeful the
Legislature would fix the problem
in the spring.
“It’s not really a win or lose is
sue,” he said. “Everybody wins in
“I just want to live a normal life
again, and without a license, it’s
tough to do that.”
Electronic signs will signal
drivers about slick roads
By The Associated Press
Travelers on Nebraska’s Interstate
80 will get better warning of bad driv
ing conditions this winter.
Thirteen solar-powered electronic
signs are being installed at 13 spots
beginning at York, 50 miles west of
Lincoln, and extending all the way to
the Colorado and Wyoming borders.
“This will allow us to get the infor
mation out to the people so they can
make the decision whether they want
to continue their trip,” said Paul
Cammack, state maintenance engineer
with the Nebraska Department of
The signs cost $26,700, are similar
to message boards used at construction
sites and during the summer they will
be used at construction areas. Some of
the 13 signs have been installed, and
signs near Kearney were used last
weekend to warn motorists of icy road
conditions. All of the signs will be in
place by Dec. 1.
The signs would be used in the
event of road closures and potential
safety hazards. The screens will be
blank if there is no imminent threat.
“We don’t want people to get used
to seeing a' drive safely’ message on it
that doesn’t mean anything,” Cammack
said. “If we put something up there, we
want them to notice it.”
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_ moving forward.
Meth information meeting
draws crowd of 400
GRAND ISLAND (AP) — The
methamphetamine problem is going
rapidly enough in central Nebraska that
400 people turned out Tuesday night
to learn more about the “poor man’s
The information meeting moder
ated by state Sen.-elect Chris Peterson
provided material from a pair of pan
els. One discussion group included two
recovering addicts and a doctor, while
law enforcement personnel and Hall
County Judge David Bush made up the
Bush said the problem begins with
alcohol as the drug of choice, followed
by marijuana and methamphetamine,
which reportedly is growing in use at
an alarming rate in the Midwest.
Bush said the illegal drug problem
is more than a law enforcement prob
lem, it is a community health problem.
State Patrol Lt. Bill Schelchter said
the patrol has met with many counse
lors and law enforcement officials
across the state to educate them on the
growing problem. He agreed with Bush
that the problem is expanding.
A senior high school* student, who
recently completed a drug recovery
course, said meth use is everywhere.
He called the drug the ultimate high,
whether people smoke it, snort it, shoot
it or swallow it.
A member of the audience asked
how to recognize the drug problem in
a neighborhood or a home.
Hall County Deputy Sheriff Chris
Ray said people should be suspicious
of a house that has a lot of traffic mak
ing brief visits. And, he said, parents
should be alerted if a child is up early
in the morning, doesn’t eat and is usu
The mother of a teen-ager who is
in a drug treatment center in Minne
sota suggested that families who sus
pect their children are using metham
phetamine should test them with kits
similar to home pregnancy tests.
“We have boxes of them in our re
frigerator,” said Debbie McCarty. “The
urine drug screen is the one proof you
have as to whether your child is taking
drugs or not.”
Mike McCarty said his son began
experimenting with alcohol and mari
juana, then started using methamphet
amine at least six months ago. The boy
was excited when he was under the in
fluence, then became lethargic and de
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