States across the nation have been heavily focusing on reforming DUI law and policy this year. Following Utah's controversial decision to lower the the blood alcohol concentration legal threshold to .05%, the state of Washington has decided to make some changes of its own in regard to stricter DUI legislation.
According to a recent article, Washington has the most lax felony DUI law out of the 46 states with these laws in the country. State law currently dictates that it currently takes 5 DUI convictions in order for motorists to acquire felony charges. Legislators proposed a bill that has sat for a few years now. It would toughen the state's DUI law, and change the current law for felony DUI charges to four years, which would include prison time. The Senate had passed the bill, known as SB 5037, for six times, but it has stalled in the Democratic-held House. Senator Mike Padden's attempts to get the bill passed date back to the year of 2013. He has vehemently promoted and pushed for its passing ever since. Padden claims that it would “save lives” if enacted. Democrats, however, felt that a law focused on treating alcoholism as opposed to incarcerating offenders would better suffice.
Many expected SB 5037 to die, until a repeat offender drew attention to the issue. A man from Renton made national headlines when he was pulled over and apprehended for a DUI for the 11th time. Dean Hermsen was pulled over on the shoulder of southbound Interstate 5 by a couple of state troopers. He had just gotten out of prison five months prior for serving time for his 10th DUI, which was also his third felony DUI charge since 2006. Senior Deputy Prosecutor Amy Freedheim expressed deep concerns about the debacle.
“This defendant is a grave danger to the community, has shown no respect for the Court or any willingness or ability to abide by any orders,” Freedheim wrote. “Despite the requirement to install an ignition interlock device, there is no evidence he has ever done so and yet continues to drive and alarmingly continues to drink alcohol. He simply cannot refrain from becoming impaired and driving.”
The gravity of Hermsen's arrest swayed the House to vote on the bill, which finally passed on a 85-11 vote last week. Democrats claim they want to stop repeat offenders like him from continually violating DUI laws over and over again. Democrats also took a liking to a clause in the bill that says offenders must pay an additional $50 fine. It will help fund educational organizations that offer programs to reduce DUI rates and drug use while driving.
The Legislature is now awaiting the approval of Governor Jay Inslee to be signed into law.
If you have been accused of driving under the influence, you will need the assistance of a qualified defense attorney. The attorneys at the Law Office of Steve Karimi are dedicated to fighting for your rights. Contact us today for a consultation.