Change Ohio’s DUI registry so it’s reliable

Knowing about men and women in your community who are in the habit of driving while intoxicated may be just as important as learning whether sex offenders live near you. In both situations, the idea behind a law in Ohio seems to be that knowledge of a threat may help people monitor and avoid it.

But the state’s registry of repeat DUI offenders, available on the Ohio Department of Public Safety website, is far from complete. Statewide, the registry lists 520 names. Realization that many repeat DUI offenders live in Ohio may be startling to some Buckeye State residents.

Even more disquieting, however, is the fact only a fraction of those with multiple DUI convictions are listed on the registry. Listings have been received by the state from only 46 of Ohio’s 88 counties.

Courts handling DUI cases are supposed to feed information to the Department of Public Safety, which maintains the database. There is no penalty for failure to comply with the requirement, however.

Apparently, part of the problem is confusion about who in the criminal justice network is supposed to handle the reports. DUI cases can be handled at various levels of the court system. And, of course, record keeping is a challenge in itself; the law includes DUI offenses dating back 20 years.

DUI offenders and at least some of their attorneys do not like the registry. Their complaints are the same as those heard from men and women required to be listed on the state sex offender registry, that those involved have paid their debt to society and should not have to suffer being stereotyped.

But there are differences. One of them is that a sex offender needs to have committed just one crime to land on the registry. The DUI list requires multiple convictions.

Ohioans should be able to rely on the repeat DUI registry. Clearly, fine-tuning is needed. State officials, including the General Assembly, if necessary, should see to it.