OLYMPIA—Just hours before the end of the 2012 regular session, state representatives and senators voted unanimously to pass sweeping drunk-driving reforms that increase the accountability of drunk drivers and make it harder for them to repeat their crimes.
“More accountability means more justice and more deterrence, and when it comes to drunk driving that literally means saving lives,” said state Rep. Roger Goodman (D-Kirkland), who sponsored the reforms.
Goodman said drunk drivers kill more Washingtonians than all other criminals combined.
Goodman’s House Bill 2443:
- Calls for cameras to be installed on ignition-interlock devices—at no cost to the state—to prevent offenders from gaming the system by having someone else give the breath sample.
- Authorizes law enforcement officers to administer breath or blood tests for felony DUI arrests without the suspect’s consent
- Expands DUI laws to cover “huffing”—inhaling vapors to get high.
- Makes DUI offenders liable for up to $2,500 of emergency-response costs—up from $1,000.
- Requires plea agreements and sentences for felony DUI cases to be kept as public records, and prevents courts from vacating convictions for felony DUI.
- Gives courts the authority to order offenders to submit to alcohol monitoring.
The measure also ensures that fees paid to the Washington State Patrol by offenders and the ignition-interlock industry are sufficient to support effective performance of the ignition-interlock program, and it allows cities to create DUI courts or enter into agreements with counties for DUI court services. Currently, only counties can operate DUI courts.
“Anyone who says this measure is too harsh has never spoken to a widow who has lost her husband, or to a parent who’s lost a child, to a drunk driver,” Goodman said.
The reforms passed today grew out of the work of the Impaired Driving Working Group that has been led by Goodman over the past five years. They were strongly supported by Washington State Patrol.
“House Bill 2443 provides several public safety enhancements to our DUI laws here in Washington state,” said Captain Jason Berry, legislative liaison for the Washington State Patrol.
Berry singled out the importance of ensuring that user fees adequately fund the work of the state patrol to ensure offender compliance with ignition-interlock requirements.
“As we look to technology to assist us in changing offender behavior, maintaining quality assurance and ensuring these drivers remain sober, we need appropriate oversight in place,” Barry said. “This bill will provide that, at no cost to the taxpayer.”
This was the second major DUI-related bill passed by Goodman this week.
Two days earlier, the Legislature passed another Goodman bill (House Bill 2302) that increases 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. That measure also passed the Legislature unanimously.