Padden’s bipartisan felony DUI bill passes Senate unanimously

Lovick amendment would add treatment sentencing alternative

In its final vote of Wednesday night, the Washington State Senate unanimously approved Senate Bill 5054, a measure aimed at strengthening the state’s felony-DUI law and reducing the pain and suffering faced by victims of impaired drivers. The 48-0 vote sent the proposal to the House of Representatives for the fourth year in a row.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Mike Padden, would extend the “look-back” in DUI cases, allowing courts to consider convictions over the previous 15 years during sentencing. Washington makes the fourth DUI conviction a felony, but under state law, courts may only consider convictions within the previous 10 years.

“This has been a journey of many years,” said Padden, R-Spokane Valley. “But the need for this legislation is greater than ever. Unfortunately, both traffic fatalities and impaired driving fatalities are up in our state – up almost over 100 percent even though driving is down 10 percent.

“The people of Washington support this effort – in the blue parts, the red parts and the purple parts of this state. It is not a partisan issue; it affects everybody.”

A change to the bill made on the Senate floor combined Padden’s proposal with one sponsored by Sen. John Lovick, D- Mill Creek, that would allow an alternative treatment sentencing.

“In my 31 years as a trooper in the Washington State Patrol, I have seen firsthand the grief and devastation that too often accompanies drug- and DUI-related offenses. SB 5054 helps us address this issue in a productive manner that gives those who commit offenses two options. They can continue down the path they’re on or make the preventative decision to end the cycle of addiction by seeking help early in the cycle. Those who choose the latter option take part in treatment, and rejoin society,” said Lovick.

Lovick also added that “for those that think this bill offers a primrose path, I want to be clear: these folks are getting a second chance, but that second chance comes with strict requirements along the way. By offering this opportunity to those who commit offenses, grieving families may be helped to move past that grief knowing that there is one less person to worry about on the road.”

Lovick’s addition to Padden’s SB 5054 changes the 10-year look-back period for a person with three or more prior DUI or “physical control” offenses to a 15-year look-back period, increasing the penalty from a gross misdemeanor to a felony offense for any person who has three or more prior DUI or PC offenses within that time. If the sentencing court determines the offender is eligible for an impaired-driving “drug offender sentencing alternative,” or DOSA, and that the alternative sentence is appropriate, the court must waive imposition of the standard sentence and either impose a prison-based DOSA or a residential treatment-based alternative.

Padden applauded Lovick’s addition to the bill.

“It is a no-nonsense treatment alternative that has been spoken of highly by Amy Friedheim, a King County deputy prosecutor who has prosecuted the most felony-DUI cases in the state,” Padden told his Senate colleagues during the floor debate on the bill.

Engrossed Senate Bill 5054 now moves to the House of Representatives for its consideration.