Lawmakers face long odds in expanding felony DUI definition

The Seattle TimesJanuary 21, 2014 

A year after cost concerns derailed a proposal to make more drunken-driving crimes count as felonies, some state lawmakers are again pushing to find the money for the change.

The Senate Law & Justice Committee held a hearing Monday on Senate Bill 6090, which would make DUI a felony the fourth time it is committed, rather than the fifth.

Of the 44 states with felony DUIs, Washington is the only one that waits until the fifth conviction for it to kick in.

“We’ve got to find some way to do this,” said state Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, the committee chairman, acknowledging the increased prison time caused by the change would be expensive. “It’s a matter to me of priorities, and I would argue that it is a priority.”

The proposal is the most high-profile of a set of bills recently introduced on an issue that abruptly stole the Legislature’s focus last spring after a crash in Seattle’s Wedgwood neighborhood killed a couple and critically injured their daughter-in-law and infant grandson.

Lawmakers eventually passed a sweeping package of changes but punted on the most dramatic — and expensive — proposals.


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