DES MOINES, Iowa - A new Iowa law will allow repeat drunk drivers to be locked up in prison for up to 15 years, replacing the old law that allowed five year sentences.
The tough new law's been approved by the Iowa legislature and signed by Governor Kim Reynolds this week.
First and second Operating While Intoxicated offices, OWI, are still misdemeanors, but after a third conviction, the new law allows drunk and high drivers to be sentenced as felony, habitual offenders.
Major Chad Colston with the Linn County Sheriff's Office in Cedar Rapids, Iowa tells KCRG-TV 9 he thinks the harsher penalties will keep the public safer.
"If we have people out there that are habitually breaking the law maybe they'll go away for a little bit longer and we might see them a little less because they might be spending more time in the prison," said Colston.
Colston is not convinced, however, that the law will serve as a deterrent to stop repeat offenders from driving drunk in the first place.
"People are still going to do it if they've disregarded the law that many times," said Colston.
Linda Chapman co-President of the Dubuque/Jackson County chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and mother who says her daughter was killed by a drunk driver in 2004, also thinks the new law is a win for public safety.
Chapman says it is hope more than anything the increased penalties mean fewer people choose to drink and drive.
"I think it is a deterrent," said Chapman.
Iowa ZeroFatalities.com reports 29% of Iowa crashes are caused by impaired drivers.