In a December post, we discussed the recently disclosed issue of Ohio’s DUI registry. The publically accessible database of repeat DUI offenders was established in 2008 in an attempt to aid law enforcement and the criminal justice system in properly handling repeat offenders and keeping them off of the streets. Similar to the sex offender registry, this list allows the public to view the information of repeat drunk drivers with more than 5 convictions in a 20 year period. Examination of the database in recent months have revealed, however, that the records were largely out-dated and incomplete, leaving a time-investment for law enforcement with very little practical use.
However, an update released by the Columbus Dispatch this week suggests that the database is receiving a much needed update. Since October, the registry has grown from 520 names to over 5,300 offenders. The public can search through the online registry by name, county, or zip code on the website.
The newly improved database includes nearly 400 repeat drunk drivers in Franklin County, with many across the state who have been convicted more than 7 times.
Critics of the registry argue that the database is still far from reliably accurate. The Dispatch article cites several incorrect addresses for offenders, pointing to lingering issues that could interfere with the effectiveness of the list.
In addition, the unofficial nature of the registry makes it of little use to prosecutors or court officials. There are more reliable information sources available to officers, lawyers, and judges that can inform on a person’s DUI history, so the registry is seldom used by officials. This could label the database as a waste of tax dollars and the time spent to maintain it.
Supporters of the database cite the goal as a tool for the public rather than court officials, though. The registry was created in the hopes that public scrutiny would put pressure on repeat offenders and make Ohio’s streets safer.
In the event that the database remains in use, however, it is easy to see that accuracy is key in maintaining any use for the tool. Officials say that they will strive to make the registry even more accurate and updated in the future.