Readers of this blog know that the state legislature has considered several DUI bills this session. One recently died in the state House of Representatives, but another continues to make progress in the Senate.
The House bill would have raised a felony DUI conviction from a class C to a class B felony. The main distinction, according to the bill's prime sponsor, is the court's authority to order community custody and other treatment options following the end of a person's sentence. Class C felony guidelines do not give courts the authority to do so; class B guidelines, on the other hand, do.
At a public hearing, several citizens testified the House bill would have unfairly targeted medical marijuana users who used the drugs to treat seizures. The bill's sponsor disagreed, saying the bill was intended for habitual offenders.
Meanwhile, the Senate bill continues to go forward. That bill would make it easier for prosecutors to charge people with felony DUI. Estimates suggest passage of the bill would lead to more than 300 extra felony DUI cases per year. That, in turn, would cost the state $3 million more per year in incarceration expenses.
Regardless of how the Senate bill turns out, Washington already takes drinking and driving seriously. Washingtonians accused of felony DUI need to take it just as seriously, maybe even more so. The first step is to speak with a lawyer about their case. An experienced DUI attorney can examine the case and identify weaknesses such as lack of reasonable suspicion to pull over a person's car as well as other procedural errors and constitutional violations.
Source: The News Tribune, "Bill to change DUI law dies in state House," Matt Benoit, Feb. 7, 2014