"There are no more free passes for those who choose to drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol." That was the message from Gov. Jay Inslee and a bipartisan group of state representatives and senators today as they introduced a new bill to increase accountability and penalties for DUIs.
Inslee is requesting legislation (HB 2030/SB 5912) to increase penalties for those convicted of DUIs, including mandatory arrest on a first offense and a choice of six months of jail time or enrollment in a new Sobriety 24/7 program on second offense. The program, which was implemented in South Dakota, provides stricter accountability and substance abuse support that has proven to reduce recidivism. Offenders will be sentenced to one year in jail on their third offense.
Additional provisions include installation of ignition interlock devices on all DUI defendant vehicles, authorization to establish DUI courts in local municipalities, and increased funding for the state's Target Zero program.
"Every accident and every death we see involving a DUI could have been prevented," said Inslee. "People who choose to get behind the wheel must know that we are done giving them a free pass."
The bill is supported by legislators in both chambers and on both sides of the aisle.
"As someone pointed out this past week at our joint committee work session, there is no crime more preventable than DUI," said Senator Mike Padden (R-Spokane Valley), Chair of the Senate Law and Justice Committee. "This new Senate bill has a lot of things in it that should help prevent DUIs, including some approaches our committee brought to the table after talking with justice officials in other states. We're making progress, and I'm optimistic we will reach agreement on something soon."
"The crime of DUI and DUI related tragedies are in decline but when terrible incidents occur, like those recently in Seattle, they serve to remind us that we still have a lot of work to do," said Senator Adam Kline (D-Seattle), ranking member of the Senate Law and Justice Committee. "It's unfortunate that it sometimes takes a tragedy to clear the way for good legislation to make its way through the process. But by passing this legislation we can help ensure that future tragedies will not happen and other families will not be devastated."
"As a critical care nurse, I've had to ask the family of a 12-year-old if they wanted their child to be an organ donor," said Rep. Dawn Morrell (D-Puyallup), who is sponsoring the House bill. "Once you've done that, you are resolved to prevent more carnage on our roads and more funerals for little boys and girls who'll never go to prom, never get their diploma and never bring their own sons and daughters home for Christmas to their grandparents. This bill will save lives."
"We've worked hard to strengthen our DUI laws and with some success, reducing alcohol-related deaths and injuries on the roadways by more than 35%. The recent tragedies remind us that we have more work to do, so we need even tougher and smarterlaws, especially to stop repeat offenders," remarked Rep. Roger Goodman (D-Kirkland), who heads the state's Impaired Driving Work Group. "Victims of drunk driversdon't get a second chance at life, so it's time we stop giving the drunk drivers a second chance. Governor Inslee has proposed strong new measures and although we only havea short time before the session endsI know we have the political will to pass these important reforms into law."
"House Republicans have been working tirelessly for years to put families before felons and increase penalties for repeat drunk drivers. We must go beyond penalties; we need a comprehensive approach to public safety. I appreciate the fee on drunk drivers to fund Target Zero, which is a great prevention program," said Rep. Brad Klippert (R-Kennewick), who works for the Benton County Sheriffs Department. "Recent events have highlighted this serious problem, but we must remember every past victim of a drunk driver as well, and do what we can to ensure we prevent future tragedies and victims."
HB 2030 and SB 5912 are scheduled for a public hearing on Thursday, April 18 in a joint session of the House and Senate.