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Jason Rantz

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Washington lawmaker pushes even stronger DUI laws

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Repeated convictions for DUI don't become felonies until the fifth offense. A new move is underway in Olympia to change that. (Brandi Kruse/MyNorthwest-file)

A new bill in the Washington state Senate would make it a felony to commit a fourth drunk-driving offense within 10 years. But a sponsor of the bill says it’s not enough.

“We probably should go a little bit further, but this is, at this point in time, what we think the system can bear, because there is a fiscal cost associated with it,” Washington State Senator David Frockt (D-Seattle) tells KIRO Radio’s Jason Rantz.

Frockt says he thinks many people would be surprised to know you can be charged with DUI up to four times before you are actually charged with a felony.

“We’ve had some tragedies in the North Seattle area as you may recall and also in other areas and I think a lot of us just feel this is wrong,” says Frockt. “We have to make it clear to people that we’re going to be more aggressive when you’re doing something that is so inherently dangerous.”

A similar change to state law was proposed last year, but the bill failed in committee over concerns about the expense of imprisoning more drunk drivers for felony convictions.

“The fiscal note was pretty significant,” Frockt says. “I seem to recall it being $50 to $60 million was projected.”

They don’t have a cost projection for this year’s bill, Frockt says. But he’d like to see them make it happen.

“We’ve got a lot on our plate here. It’s always been the case that we can’t do this because it’s going to impact what we can do on education or it’s going to impact what we do in this other space, but to me I think the difference here is the degree,” says Frockt. “I’m not a huge proponent of just throwing the book. I want to have smart sentencing. I don’t think that we should just willy-nilly go and expand sentencing all the time, but I do think in this instance when someone dies there is a great outcry and I think the public is right to be concerned about this.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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