Federal Way woman first to face stiffer DUI penaltyon June 14, 2012 @ 6:56 am (Updated: 8:49 am - 6/14/12 )
The high speed crash on June 7 in Federal Way killed the other driver.
Michelle Dittamore probably knows by now that if she's convicted of vehicular homicide, she could face about triple the sentence she would have received had the crash happened one day before.
On June 7, 2012, two new laws took effect that stiffen the penalties for impaired driving that result in death.
King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg alleges that Dittamore had taken a variety of prescription medicines before she got behind the wheel. The crash killed 48-year-old Jana Berry.
Dittamore is OK and so is her 4-year-old son. Having the little boy in the car could add to Dittamore's sentence. One of the new laws includes "a mandatory one-year additional sentence for having a minor in a car," Satterberg explained.
Under the old sentencing guidelines, a conviction for vehicular homicide would have probably sent Dittamore to prison for 2 and a half to 3 and a half years. The new sentencing guidelines, including the enhancement for having a child in the car makes Dittamore's sentence range 7 and a half to 9 and a half years.
Satterberg says the new sentencing law makes conviction for a fatal drunk driving crash comparable to the punishment for manslaughter.
"Washington used to be embarrassingly low in our sentencing schemes, compared to our neighbors Oregon and Idaho," he said.
Satterberg thinks the new sentencing guidelines do more to protect us from imparied drivers.
You can argue whether or not the stiffer sentences for drunk driving fatalities will deter anybody. Satterberg says we're battling a culture that used to look the other way.
"These new laws that say you can't drive drunk or impaired with a child in your car, that really give us the first-degree manslaughter type of sentence [...] are another milestone in our battle against drunk driving," Satterberg said.
Wednesday, a judge set bail for Dittamore at $250,000. She is jailed and due in court on June 25 to enter a plea.
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