Attorney General Responds to Montana’s MADD Report Card
HELENA – Montana Attorney General Mike McGrath responded today to the failing grade Montana received from Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Earlier, MADD released its “Rating the States 2002″ report, and gave Montana an F in the fight against drinking and driving, and underage drinking.
“Clearly we can do better,” McGrath said, “and now is the time to do it.”
“The 2003 Montana Legislature convenes in about six weeks and lawmakers have an opportunity to make some important changes,” he said, noting that the MADD report challenges legislators to “get serious about impaired driving and underage drinking.”
McGrath said there is proposed legislation to address many of the shortcomings listed on Montana’s MADD report card. Bills related to open containers, a .08 blood-alcohol threshold, primary seatbelt enforcement, graduated driver licenses for young people and more stringent sentences are proposed for the forthcoming session.
Much of the proposed legislation is the product of recommendations from the Alcohol, Tobacco and other Drug Policy Task Force. Gov. Judy Martz and McGrath formed the task force in February 2002 and it released its final report in September.
Finally, McGrath said the MADD report card is inaccurate in its characterization of victim issues and services in the state. Some of the reports recommendations have already been adopted in Montana.
Shortly after McGrath took office in 2001, he created the Office of Victim Services and Restorative Justice within the Attorney General’s Office. The office works to elevate the status of victims and their rights, and administers the Crime Victim Compensation program, including federal Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) funds mentioned in the MADD report.
Contrary to the MADD report, Montana law allows for court-ordered restitution, and although the MADD report card faults Montana for the lack of an electronic victim information system, Montana has the VINE (Victim Information and Notification Everyday) program and the CON website. VINE is an automated telephone system that allows victims to find out the status of prisoners incarcerated in Montana facilities. CON, the Correctional Offender Network, is an electronic tracking system for Montana felons that includes their status in the corrections system, a photo, description and their criminal record. It is accessible through the Montana Department of Corrections website.