Washington State’s implementation of drunk driving laws have been under criticism by victims of drunk drivers and their families for some time now. Many have criticized the inconsistencies in a few of the state’s laws, namely the apparent double-standard in DUI cases; a person who inadvertently kills someone in a fistfight faces approximately eight years in prison, but a drunk driver gets between 2 ½ and 3 ½ years in prison for killing someone. In search for justice, families of loved ones that have fallen victim to drunk drivers have been working to increase the punishments for these crimes.
The Push for Tougher Drunk Driving Laws
Though it is hard to determine when the movement for tougher drunk driving laws in Washington State began, it is rather easy to find instances supporting the viability for new legislature.
In 2011, 26-year-old Meghan Stivers was driving through Snohomish County when a drunk driver collided with her vehicle, killing her instantly. The incident reportedly happened as the drunk driver, 45-year-old Randy Sedy, was fleeing the pursuit of officers who suspected he was driving under the influence.
In all of the destruction caused by Sedy’s actions that evening, which included significant damage to three vehicles and the unfortunate death of Stivers, he was sentenced to just six years in prison.
Despite enforcing one of the most comprehensive ignition interlock laws in the country, Washington State has fallen to criticism over the common sense reasoning associated with its drunk driving laws.
A ‘Long Time Coming’
However, victims’ families in Washington State can now rest a little easier knowing that their cries for change have helped lead to revisions in drunk driving laws. The revised laws increase sentences for DUI-related vehicular homicide to the equivalent of first-degree manslaughter, between 6 ½ and 8 ½ years.
“It just melted my bones,” says Frank Blair, the father of 24-year-old Sheena Blair, who was killed by a drunk driver heading the wrong way on Broadway in Everett in 2010. “Good things happen in Olympia from time to time.”
The drunk driver responsible for Sheena Blair’s death, 28-year-old Camille Spink of Everett, received a seven-year sentence for her crimes in January of 2011.
State officials believe that the new laws should send a strong message to the community, in hopes that the presence of tougher penalties will serve as a deterring reminder.
“It’s a very long time coming,” says Conrad Thompson, chairman of the Snohomish County DUI Task Force board. “It’s an issue that victims have raised for years and years and years. Before the punishment didn’t fit the crime.”
Though families like the Blairs are in support of tougher sentences for DUI drivers, they hope that the law serves as a preventative measure for those thinking about getting behind the wheel while under the influence.
“We are not angry, vengeful people,” Blair’s father added. “Our goal is not to punish people. Our goal is to have less people killed by drunk drivers.”
What kind of impact do you think the revised drunk driving laws will have on Washington State? Share your thoughts and experiences with us in the comment box below.