House unites to pass sweeping reforms to combat drunk driving

Rep. Chris Hurst

OLYMPIA—State representatives shared stories of people killed and families destroyed by drunk driving as they united behind sweeping reforms to crack down on drunk drivers and provide more help to their victims.

State Rep. Roger Goodman (D-Kirkland) shared a letter written by Nabila Lacey, the widow of Steve Lacey, who described the pain faced every day by her family, and the things they can no longer do with Dad, since her husband was killed by a drunk driver.

“The Lacey family’s sentence for vehicular homicide is going to last a lifetime with no chance of parole,” Lacey said.

The drunk driving reforms passed today include four Goodman bills:

  • HB 2443 strengthens Washington’s nation-leading ignition-interlock program by adding cameras to the devices—at no cost to the state—to prevent offenders from gaming the system. Other reforms in the bill increase offender liability for emergency-response costs, prevent felony DUI offenses from being vacated by courts, and add “huffing” chemical vapors to the conditions that fall under DUI laws. (Passed 98-0)
  • HB 2302 increases financial penalties for  drunk driving offenses when a child under age 16 is in the car—and triples the amount of time an ignition interlock device must be on the offender’s vehicles, from 60 days to six months. (Passed 98-0)
  • HB 2176 prevents drunk drivers who kill or harm from using the statute of limitations to duck court-ordered payments to victims. Victims can ensure the drunk driver’s debt cannot be extinguished until it is paid in full. (Passed 93-4)
  • HB 2405 allows courts to order drunk drivers who kill a parent to pay child support for the victim’s minor children.  (Passed 95-3)

Rep. Christopher Hurst (D-Enumclaw), who served as a Detective and Commander of a homicide and violent crimes task force, spoke movingly of a mom who told him she will spend every Christmas for the rest of her life bringing a Christmas tree to her the grave of her son, who was killed by a drunk driver.

After Hurst spoke, the House voted unanimously for his proposal to make the penalty for vehicular homicide involving drunk driving equal to the penalty for manslaughter (House Bill 2216).

“Every police officer and firefighter can tell you horror stories of being the first on the scene after a drunk driver hits somebody,” said Hurst. “And you remember their faces. You remember the ones who lived and the ones who died as you tried to help them. The legislation we’re passing today is for them.”

First-time DUI offenders will also pay far more for their crimes, if the reforms passed by the House today become law.  The House voted 85-11 for House Bill 1556, authored by Rep. Steve Kirby (D-Tacoma), that triples the mandatory minimum sentence for a first-time DUI offense from one day to three days in jail—and requires the offender to pay for the cost of incarceration.

“A day in jail simply isn’t enough,” said Kirby. “A slap on the hand doesn’t get anybody’s attention anymore.  We need to send a message that we’re serious about cracking down on people who drive drunk.”

Goodman said the reforms passed today would mean more accountability for offenders and more justice for victims.

“More people are maimed and killed by drunk drivers in Washington than by all other criminals combined,” Goodman said.

“We can’t bring back the lives of people killed by drunk drivers, and we can’t make the lives of victims whole again,” said Goodman.  “But putting these reforms into law will bring a measure of justice for both the offenders and their victims, and we owe them nothing less.”

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