State Senate Toughens WA DUI Laws, Currently Weakest in U.S.
We will see if the State House tries to curtail this latest attempt to strengthen our state's DUI laws. For the sixth straight year, the GOP controlled State Senate this week voted 41-0 to make a significant change to DUI laws. The past five legislative sessions, the Democrat-controlled House declined to even bring it to the floor for a vote, so it didn't even pass.
How are our laws weaker than all states? In Washington state, you have to get FIVE DUI misdemeanor convictions before you will automatically be charged with a felony. The Senate voted to change that so the fourth conviction is automatically a felony, with much more severe consequences. In fact, legislators said our DUI laws are THE weakest in the U.S.
Senator Mike Padden (R-Spokane) led the effort and said this about his legislation:
“This bill makes it easier to put these drivers behind bars for longer terms. We need to think about the families of victims who come before us every year and ask that we do something to reduce this tragic and unnecessary crime. This year, we hope House leaders will join with us and recognize the importance of getting these drivers off the road.”
Gov. Inslee agrees, and has already stated he will sign the bill if it passes the legislature and crosses his desk.
According to Senate leaders, a person who receives that fourth DUI, and has NO other prior convictions of any sort, would be looking at a jail sentence of anywhere from 7 to 13 years under this new law. State officials say it would add about 192 superior court case trials each year if the new law passes.
No explanation was given as to why the House refused to even vote on such a measure, especially five years in a row. That flies in the face of the state's Project Zero, which is trying to reduce the number of traffic fatalities to -0- by the year 2020.