Angry Washington State Governor urges action on tougher DUI legislation

Unless you have been living under a rock these past few months, a series of tragic and horrific DUI crashes have taken place injuring and in some cases killing innocent pedestrians and drivers. There has been a public outcry over tougher DUI laws, and a growing sentiment among the general public that repeat offenders should not be on the street.

Until recently Washington State Governor Inslee has been silent on this issue, but that is no more. In an interview with Kiro News 7, Governor Inslee is asking the Washington State Legislature to revive some DUI legislation that had been previously tabled. He has been quoted as saying, “I look at drunk drivers just like terrorists walking around with a time bomb in their trunk.”

The legislation he hopes to be revived is contained in HB 1482, a bill that until recently was stalled and seemed dead. There are two main provisions in this bill that would increase the penalties and toughen DUI laws on repeat offenders.

First this bill would amend the language of deferred sentences on DUI offenses. Typically a deferred sentence occurs when an individual is charged with a DUI, and the charge gets reduced to Negligent Driving 1 and the Judge imposes a deferred sentence. Meaning the Judge will not sentence the individual but instead continue the case for a period of time. If after that period of time the individual has stayed out of trouble and completed whatever conditions the Judge sets then the charge will be dismissed.

As a Seattle DUI Lawyer I really don’t think this should be stricken. First of all it is very rare for a Judge to do this. Secondly if it were to happen it usually only involves cases where the defendant had an extremely low breath test, typically under the legal limit. They have completed all the necessary classes, and have been found to not be at a risk to reoffend. And again this is a very rare plea deal. In my opinion probably 99% of the DUI cases out there do not get such a deal. So to eliminate this benefit and have it count as a prior DUI when it has been dismissed doesn’t make sense to me. Additionally a Judge always has the discretion to impose whatever sentence the Judge wants. So if a person got a deferred sentence and the DUI was dismissed, and then they got a second. It’s not like the Judge wouldn’t know about the first, and could sentence how they see fit.

The second big provision this bill contains is to make a third DUI a felony. Currently to be charged as a felony DUI an individual must have 4 or more prior DUIs in a period of 10 years. Essentially this bill would make it a felony on your third one. Now I’m torn with this provision.

Obviously I’m a Seattle DUI lawyer. My practice focuses on representing those charged with DUI offenses. But with that being said about 95% of my practice deals with individuals who have never been in trouble before. It is their first DUI, and they are not going to get another one. So this law is not going to affect my targeted potential clients. And I do think there is some merit to the public outcry of repeat offenders continuing to drink and drive. I guess I will live it that.

There are some additional provisions that would fall under this proposed bill, but these are the main ones in my opinion. It should be interesting if these DUI cases that have been in the media get this bill pushed through. Only time will tell.