Senate budget committee backs Padden’s felony-DUI bill

Sen. Mike Padden’s bill to make a fourth DUI conviction in 10 years a felony is one step closer to Senate passage, after receiving a “do-pass” recommendation from the Senate’s Ways and Means committee today.

“We heard from the family of Russell Bartlett, a wonderful man who volunteered at hospices, who 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,” said Padden, who serves on the budget committee.

“When we weigh the cost of a bill that goes after repeat DUI offenders, we have an obligation to look at the emotional and financial costs to the Bartlett family and other victims of these completely preventable crimes.”

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. The bill, as amended by the committee, also includes funding for prevention.

On Wednesday Dale Panattoni, the son-in-law of Russell Bartlett, appeared on KIRO-FM’s Dori Monson Show to urge support for the bill. Monson argued that those who oppose the bill because of the cost associated with punishing felony offenders should consider how the law’s passage would change behavior.

“People are going to stop driving drunk with three convictions if they know the fourth one will be a felony,” Monson told Panattoni. “They’re going to start calling Uber, or getting a taxi, or getting a designated driver. People will change their behavior. And if they are not willing to change their behavior, they absolutely deserve to be locked up before they do what they did to your father-in-law.”

SB 5105 now moves to the Senate Rules Committee, the final stop before a vote of the full Senate.