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$1,000 Fine on First Offense : State Uncorks Tough New Laws on Drunk Driving

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United Press International

Hundreds of thousands of Californians are likely to feel the sting of this year’s tough new drinking-driver laws, including a new $1,000 maximum fine for first-time convictions.

Highway Patrol Commissioner James E. Smith said Friday that more and more drunk drivers are being arrested, pointing out that the 150,000 intoxicated motorists pulled over by the CHP in 1984 is a record number.

The statewide total for all law enforcement agencies is expected to exceed the 346,267 drunk driver arrests made in 1983, he said.

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Smith said one of the toughest new laws affecting 1985 offenders is the $1,000 maximum fine for a first-time conviction for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The previous maximum was $500.

Here are some other changes:

- Juveniles convicted for the first time of a drunk-driving offense can have their licenses suspended or restricted for up to one year.

- Habitually drunk drivers can lose their driving privileges for four years, in addition to other penalties.

- Authorities can impound the car of a convicted drunk driver for up to three months.

Not all the laws affect drinking drivers. Here are some others:

- Motorcycle and moped drivers and passengers under age 15 1/2 must wear a safety helmet with sticker of approval from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

- Beginning July 1, drivers can be fined up to $100 for failing to carry proof of automobile insurance.

- Non-commercial vehicles must be registered in California within 20 days after the owner gets a job or establishes residency.

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- Drivers who fail to appear in traffic court can draw a license suspension.

- No driver under the age of 21 may drive any commercial vehicle containing hazardous materials.

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