State’s Efforts To Get Tough On Drunk Drivers Could Be Too Costly

A bill that would increase penalties for people who drive while intoxicated would be too costly for cash-strapped governments and there are more effective means of deterrence already in place, defense attorneys told state lawmakers on Monday.

Family members and friends of people who have been killed or injured by drunken drivers urged the Legislature to pass House Bill 1556, which would increase the mandatory minimum jail sentence for first-time offenders from one day to three days. If a person’s blood alcohol content was .15 or higher, the minimum jail time would be one week, instead of two days. The legal limit in Washington state is .08.

The legislation specifies that people convicted of DUIs would be required to pay the costs of incarceration. But Patricia Fulton of the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers said more than two out of every three offenders would be unable to pick up the bill.

“The cost will be shuttled off to small jurisdictions,” she told the House Judiciary Committee. “It will be too burdensome.”