Senate votes to make 4th DUI a felony – for 6th time

OLYMPIA – The Washington Senate voted 41-0 Thursday morning to make the fourth DUI a felony in Washington state, marking the sixth time the Senate has given such a measure a unanimous vote since 2015.

The previous five times, House leaders have declined to bring the measure to the House floor for a vote.

“Repeat impaired drivers impose the greatest danger on our roads and highways,” said Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, the bill’s sponsor. “This bill makes it easier to put these drivers behind bars for longer terms. We need to think about the families of victims who come before us every year and ask that we do something to reduce this tragic and unnecessary crime. This year, we hope House leaders will join with us and recognize the importance of getting these drivers off the road.”

Padden noted that the governor has indicated he will sign the bill when it is delivered to his desk.

Washington currently has the weakest felony DUI law in the country, requiring four previous misdemeanor convictions over before the fifth offense can be charged as a felony. Neighboring states of Oregon and Idaho allow felony charges on the third offense.

Senate Bill 5037 would allow the fourth offense in Washington to be charged as a Class C felony. A person with three prior convictions for driving under the influence or related offenses, and no other criminal history, would be subject to a sentencing range of 13 to 17 months’ incarceration.

An analysis by the state Office of Financial Management estimates that 192 new felony cases would be tried in county superior courts each year.