At 3am on Friday, April 3, 2015, the Washington State Senate passed 2SSB 5105 pertaining to Felony DUI's reports King 5. The bill now heads to the Washington House of Representatives for consideration.
Under the current law, a person may be charged with a felony DUI if they have 4 or more prior offenses in the past 4 years. The new bill looks to lower the amount of prior offenses for a DUI to escalate to 3 in the past 10 years. This bill is the result of a task force on impaired driving created by Governor Jay Inslee in 2013 after a series of fatal accidents.
Under this new bill, a person may be charged with a felony driving under the influence (DUI) or physical control if a person's criminal record includes three or more proior offenses within 10 years. A fourth DUI or physical control offense is a class C felony ranked at level IV on the felony sentence grid.
A person with 3 or more prior offenses charged with felony DUI and has no other criminal history faces a standard sentencing range between 13-17 months. That time would be served in prison. In comparison, a person charged with a first offense DUI or physical control in Washington faces is a gross misdemeanor with a mandatory minimum of 1 or 2 days in jail (maximum of 364 days). In this situation, a person would serve their time at the county jail or sometimes an a municipal jail.
Washington state is following the lead of several other states who have made DUI's a felony for repeat offenders. According to a MADD Felony DUI chart, some states (New York, Indiana and Oklahoma), make it a felony when a person has only one prior offense in the past 5 or 10 years. Many other states make it a felony when a person has two prior offenses in the same time frame.
Another component of this bill would be an additional fine of $50 assessed to any person who is convicted, sentenced to a lesser charge or who petitions for a deferred prosecution as a result of charge of DUI, physical control, vehicular assault or vehicular homicide. This additional assessment will go to the highway safety account of the Washington State Traffic Commission to provide grants to organizations in Washinton counties to combat driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs.
It will be very interesting to see whether this bill becomes law. There is a time crunch as the leglislative session is nearing an end. Also, funding this statute and budgeting may be another obstacle in the path of this bill.