Ohio Web site lists few repeat DUI offenders

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - An Ohio Web site meant to list the names of multiple drunken driving offenders contains fewer than 1 percent of repeat violators because of a change to legislation just before it was passed.

A bill creating the list of repeat offenders was apparently weakened - without the knowledge of the lawmaker who sponsored it - before it was approved in 2008.

The site currently contains the names of those with five or more convictions, and the last one must have occurred after Sept. 29, 2008. Only 96 people are on the list, coming from just 33 of Ohio's 88 counties.

The cutoff date leaves out an estimated 36,000 Ohioans with five or more DUI convictions since 1973, but whose last conviction was before late September 2008, when the law took effect.

The bill's sponsor, state Sen. Tim Grendell, said he was unaware that so many repeat offenders were excluded from the Web site. He said that was not his intent and that he would introduce legislation in 2010 to require the names of all Ohioans with at least five drunken driving convictions to be displayed.

"That's not right," he said. "If you have five or more you should be on (the public list) now. I have some work to do."

It is unclear how the change was made to the legislation to limit the reach of the Web site, or who was behind it.

Grendell said his preference would be to list the names of every Ohioan with at least one offense. But he said compromises must be made to get legislation passed because of concerns about privacy and logistical challenges for the state.

The Cincinnati Enquirer sued the Ohio Department of Public Safety in 2007 to get the names of repeat DUI offenders. But state lawyers won in the Ohio Supreme Court, arguing that federal privacy laws kept them from releasing the names as one large database.

John Greiner, a Cincinnati attorney who represented the Enquirer, said it's "crazy" that it takes five convictions to make the list.

According to Grendell, state officials voiced concerns during debate over his bill that it would be very difficult to collect and keep updated, accurate DUI conviction records going back two decades.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)