Northwest NEWS

January 31, 2000

Local News

Lovick wants more severe DUI laws

   OLYMPIA--State Rep. John Lovick, D-Mill Creek, is sponsoring legislation to make repeat DUI offenders subject to felony charges with mandatory prison sentences, and to increase sentences for vehicular assault.

   HB-2411 would require a mandatory three-year prison sentence for anyone with four or more DUI convictions within seven years. HB-2412 would create two degrees of vehicular assault, depending on seriousness of victim injuries. A near-death injury would carry a first-degree charge, while the second-degree charge for a less severe injury would carry a lighter sentence.

   "Chronic drunk drivers need to be taken off the road, and drunk drivers who cause injuries deserve more than a slap on the wrist," said Lovick, vice-chair of the Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee and a State Patrol trooper for 26 years. "Few drunken drivers serve significant prison time when they injure another person. My proposals will make Washington drunken-driving laws smarter and easier to prosecute.

   "Washingtonians are serious about condemning drunken driving. By lowering the DUI threshold to 0.08 percent a year ago, we are now discouraging drinking and driving. We now need tougher penalties to get chronic, repeat offenders off the street."

   About 6,000 Washington residents--one of four drunken drivers--have two or more DUIs on their records, Lovick said. More than 50 have six or more convictions in the past 10 years and are still driving, according to the Office of the Administrator for the Courts, which makes statewide collection of court records. Repeat drunken drivers pose nearly double the risk of causing a fatal crash than other drivers, according to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report.

   Prosecutors have complained that current penalties are too lenient for drunken drivers who cause life-threatening injuries, leaving penalties too low for drunken drivers who cause less than life-threatening injuries, said Lovick.

   Alcohol-related wrecks cost state taxpayers $460 million in medical costs and property damage every year. State court records show 9,700 drunken-driving citations were issued in 1998, the last year for which official records have been compiled.