Lawmakers to vote Thursday on longer “look-backs” for DUIs

OLYMPIA – Two bills that would extend “look-back” provisions in current DUI laws are heading for a vote Thursday in the Senate Law and Justice Committee.

The bills would allow courts to consider previous DUI convictions over a longer period of time – as long as 25 years under SB 5299, sponsored by Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley.

Current law allows courts to consider only convictions within the last 10 years, for purposes of sentencing. In Washington state, an offender can be charged with a felony if he or she has had three prior misdemeanor convictions within 10 years for DUI or physical control of a motor vehicle under the influence.

Padden also is a co-sponsor of another bill that would extend the look-back to 20 years. That measure, SB 5286, is sponsored by Sen. David Frockt, D-Seattle.

Both bills received hearings Monday and are scheduled for a vote in the Senate Law and Justice Committee Thursday at 10 a.m., Senate Hearing Room 4, John A. Cherberg Bldg., Capitol Campus, Olympia.

The look-back provision is the next frontier for advocates of stronger DUI laws. Padden was among the champions of the multi-year effort to make the fourth DUI a felony in Washington state, which became law in 2017. Until then, felony charges could be brought only on the fifth offense. The extended “look-back” would allow felony charges to be filed against a greater number of offenders.

“We often hear of cases where an impaired driver has been convicted multiple times, but has never been charged with a felony because the convictions took place too long ago,” Padden explained. “Studies show these repeat offenders are far more likely to be involved in fatal DUI crashes. If we have a longer look-back period, we can get more of these repeat offenders off the road and help stop this most-preventable tragedy.”

In testimony Monday, the bills received support from the Washington Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Padden says he expects only one of the look-back bills to advance this session. The committee is awaiting cost-estimates on both measures.