Fatal crash sheds new light on disturbing gaps in DUI laws

SEATTLE -- The {A href=""}horrific crash that killed two people and wounded two more on Monday was caused by a suspected drunk driver with a history of DUI arrests, and now many are wondering how the repeat offender was even able to get behind the wheel of a car.

As a condition of driving, judges often require a DUI suspect to install an interlock device in their vehicle that won't let them start the car if they have alcohol in their system.

But thanks to some disturbing gaps in state law, the program is run on what can be seen as an honor system.

By all accounts, Mark Mullan had no right to be driving the day police say he smashed his truck into a family of four as they crossed the street.

Mullan was awaiting trial for an October DUI arrest when he was arrested again on Christmas Day. He pleaded guilty to that DUI, and at his sentencing in January the judge imposed a series of requirements before he could legally drive again.

"Mr. Mullan indicated that he still wanted to drive a vehicle, so at the time the judge said, 'To do so, you must have an ignition interlock,'" said Betty McNeery of the Seattle Municipal Court.

But the way the system is set up, no one followed up to make sure Mullan complied with the judge's order.

"The problem is people drive illegally no matter what we do, and someone whose license is suspended, there is a huge percentage of those people that continue to drive," said Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutor Courtney Popp.

Popp trains fellow attorneys in how to prosecute DUI cases and is a board members with Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. She said interlocks are often required as a condition of getting a temporary license from the Department of Licensing.

When police arrested Mullan on Monday, his license was still suspended, so he was driving illegally. He didn't have an interlock installed as the judge ordered, but the courts don't have the resources available to check.

Now many in the criminal justice system are wondering what can be done to close that loophole.

"I think what we'll all be doing across the criminal justice system right now is looking at the way we manage cases. Looking at what our laws are," McNeery said.


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