Key Senate panel unanimously approves Padden’s felony-DUI bill

Sen. Mike Padden, R-4Momentum and support continue to grow for Sen. Mike Padden’s bill to make a fourth DUI conviction in 10 years a felony. Today the state Senate Law and Justice Committee voted unanimously to approve Senate Bill 5105, which now moves one step closer to a vote of the full Senate.

“These repeat-DUI offenders are the most likely to commit a vehicular assault or vehicular homicide,” said Padden, who chairs the committee. “It is imperative that we do everything we can to get these people off the streets and under supervision so that they can’t continue to put themselves and the rest of the public in danger.”

Under state law, someone must be convicted of five DUIs within 10 years for the fifth to be considered a felony. Padden’s bill would make a fourth DUI conviction in 10 years a felony, meaning state prison rather than county jail. 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.

“I don’t think we want to have the weakest felony-DUI law in the nation,” said Padden, R-Spokane Valley. “We have an obligation to take this crime seriously.”

Padden pointed to the cost Washington’s lax DUI laws have on victims and their families.

“We heard from the Bartlett family from Yakima who lost a father and husband – a wonderful man who volunteered at hospices, when he was mowed down at 9:30 in the morning, while walking on the sidewalk, by a drunk 27-year old woman driving her boyfriend’s RV.

“It was such a senseless, completely preventable event, and no family should ever have to go through that pain.”

SB 5105 now moves to the Way and Means Committee, which will evaluate the measure’s fiscal effect.