Last Friday, at the end of a marathon session by lawmakers, the Washington state Senate unanimously passed Sen. Mike Padden’s bill to make a fourth DUI conviction in 10 years a felony. The policy is also funded in the Senate’s operating budget proposal.
“This bill is really about going after those repeat offenders who are putting the public at risk and even taking lives,” said Padden, who chairs the Senate Law and Justice Committee.
“We have an obligation to look at the damage done to families like Russell Bartlett’s, who are devastated by having their loved ones ripped away from them in what is really a completely preventable crime. We owe it to them to get serious about taking these dangerous people off the streets.”
Forty-five states have felony-DUI laws; of those only Washington requires five convictions within a 10-year period. Neighboring Oregon and Idaho require only three DUI convictions.
Senate Bill 5105 would make a fourth DUI conviction in 10 years a felony, meaning state prison rather than county jail.
“For many of the family members of victims, this still does not go far enough,” said Padden. “I agree; by the time someone is caught driving under the influence three times, they have more than likely gotten away with it on dozens of other occasions.
“But this bill is a significant step in the right direction. It puts those who drive drunk over and over again on notice that we take this crime seriously and will continue to work to protect lives and punish repeat offenders.”