Senator Mike Padden, Republican – Spokane Valley, for the second time is trying to push a bill into law that will make a 4th time DUI conviction within the past 10 years a felony conviction. Currently, Washington State law mandates that a 5th DUI (Driving Under the Influence) charge within the past decade is a felony DUI charge.
It was only a year ago, when Senator Padden first tried to present his bill to lower the felony DUI threshold, but the bill lost momentum and was quickly turned down due to financial cost concerns for imprisoning more drunk drivers found guilty of a felony DUI. Padden believes this year will be different, he spoke this past Wednesday sharing that his new bill, Senate Bill 5105, has more support from both Senate Democrats and fellow Republicans.
“I think it’s a matter of priorities,” Padden said. “… We may need another prison, or to put one that we have in mothballs into operation.”
Changing Washington State felony DUI law is not a new novel idea. In 2013, after a string of drunk driving related fatalities, Governor Jay Inslee’s work group also made the same recommendation, to lower the felony DUI level from 5 to 4. Additionally, neighboring States have had harsher felony DUI laws existing for years. Both Oregon and Idaho have laws that make a driver’s 3rd DUI charge within 10 years a felony DUI charge.
Padden and fellow supporters of the bill believe that tougher DUI laws will help deter repeat drunk driving offenders and that increased penalties for those who do repeatedly offend will perhaps get the help they need while keeping them off the roads aiding in lowering drunk driving related accidents.
Being convicted of a felony DUI is no joke. Here in Washington State, if an individual is found guilty of a felony DUI he or she could face up to 5 years in prison and a maximum fine amount of $10,000.00. The actual sentence is determined by a judge who calculates the individual’s “offender score” which is based on points for current and prior criminal convictions (unless the individual is a minor). Additionally, the Judge would revoke the individual’s driver’s license for many years.
Senate Bill 5105 will go before the Senate Law and Justice Committee soon.
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