Earlier this year, the Washington state Legislature enacted tougher penalties for people convicted drunk driving offenses. Under the new law, the penalties for vehicular homicide are treated the same as those for manslaughter.
The law change went into effect on June 7, the same day a 31-year-old woman is accused of causing an accident in Federal Way that left a 48-year-old woman dead and two others injured.
King County prosecutors allege that the 31-year-old was intoxicated at the time of the crash, and she was charged with vehicular homicide. Under the new law, the woman could face 7 ½ to 9 ½ years in prison, if convicted. She could also face an additional year in prison because her young son was in the vehicle at the time of the crash.
According to the criminal complaint, the woman had been drinking at a business in Milton before driving away without turning her headlights on. Witnesses said the woman's child was in the front passenger seat of the car at the time.
Upon entering Federal Way, the woman's car is said to have collided with the driver's side of a car driven by the 48-year-old woman, who perished upon impact. Apparently, the 31-year-old told police that she had consumed a "tumbler" of alcohol and taken sleeping pills.
When a person is accused of drunk driving in the state of Washington, prosecutors can use five distinct types of evidence in effort to prove the charges:
- First is personal knowledge, which refers to a person who has witnessed the driver's driving, appearance and behavior at the time of the accident.
- Next is admission, meaning the accused driver admits to being intoxicated at the time of the accident.
- Third is the opinion of someone who observed the driver, an arresting officer or a qualified expert.
- Fourth, are the results of certain blood-alcohol content tests.
- Finally, is physical or documentary evidence, including photographs, pills or other evidence gathered at the accident scene.
As you can see, the state of Washington doesn't take drunk driving charges lightly. However, all people have a constitutional right to a fair trial before they can be convicted.
Source: Seattlepi.com, "Woman accused in deadly crash first to face stiffer sentence," Levi Pulkiknen, June 13, 2012