CLEVELAND, Tenn. - Nearly three years after Dustin Ledford was killed by an intoxicated driver going the wrong way on APD 40, tougher DUI legislation named for him may be close to becoming reality.
Bradley County commissioners will vote Monday on a resolution asking that Gov. Bill Haslam and the Tennessee legislature support "Dustin's Law," known as House Bill 0008 and Senate Bill 0579 in the Capitol in Nashville.
Commissioner Robert Rominger introduced the resolution, which urges support of legislation to toughen penalties in cases that result in charges of aggravated vehicular homicide.
The woman convicted in the fatal wreck had a blood-alcohol content of 0.24 and methamphetamine in her system, Dustin Ledford's mother, Kim Ledford, told Bradley County and Cleveland leaders recently.
"As intoxicated as she was, there needs to be stiffer penalties," said Ledford, who has been campaigning for the change since her 24-year-old son's death.
Bradley County Sheriff's Office Capt. W.G. Campbell, who investigated Ledford's fatal crash, appeared with Kim Ledford before the Cleveland City Council to speak for stronger DUI laws. He expressed amazement that the driver who killed Ledford received only a 10-year sentence and was eligible for parole in two years.
"If you're really, really drunk or you've got meth in your system and barely drunk, you should get more punishment," Campbell said. "We need stiffer penalties, and we need to stand up as a community and say we need this law."
In Nashville, Dustin's Law needs not only support but funding, said Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland.
"I feel real good about the bill when it has a run on the House floor," said Watson, chairman of the House Criminal Justice Committee. Watson said he hopes Dustin's Law could be incorporated into Gov. Haslam's DUI reform efforts.
The law will need a few hundred thousand dollars in funding, Watson said. He indicated that a larger state budget this year may bode well for the bill, which was sponsored by Rep. William Lamberth, R-Cottonwood, and co-sponsored by Watson and other legislators.
Watson tried to get Dustin's Law enacted during the last General Assembly, but it failed because of funding challenges, he said.
"When Dustin was killed, I asked the Lord to not have let him have died in vain," Ledford said. "I want his death to count for something."