OLYMPIA – Motorists who rack up four convictions for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs would face a felony charge under a bill that the Washington Senate passed unanimously Friday.
Sponsored by Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, the bill seeks to reduce the number of Washington drivers with long histories of driving under the influence. Supporters said it sends a clear message that repeat offenders should not be on the road.
Testifying for the bill was Linda Thompson, of Spokane, whose son was killed and daughter injured on their way to a parade in August 1986.
“A man came down the road who had been drinking all night long,” Thompson said, describing how the car slammed into the horse-drawn cart her children were riding in. The crash also killed a 23-year-old woman and severed a horse’s leg.
Police told Thompson the man’s blood-alcohol content was 0.27 percent, more than three times the legal limit, she said.
“They told us he had had 17 previous DUI arrests with no convictions,” she said.
Washington has among the highest rates of drunken-driving deaths in the country. The state Traffic Safety Commission reports that 220 people died in crashes that involved a drunken or impaired driver in 2013.
Under the bill, prison sentences for DUI felonies would range from 13 to 17 months. The first three offenses would be gross misdemeanors. The state would charge a $50 fine to raise money for local DUI prevention programs.
The bill now goes to the House, which already has passed separate legislation toughening DUI laws.
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