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Efforts to toughen Washington state’s DUI laws move forward

Efforts to toughen Washington state’s DUI laws took a small step forward as a House subcommittee approved a new measure Wednesday.

The bill, approved by the House Public Safety Committee, would include increased jail time and mandatory minimum sentences and making driving under the influence a felony on the fourth conviction within 10 years, rather than the current law that has it at five.

The measure would also require installment of ignition interlock devices on cars after an arrest, rather than conviction, as a condition of release after a person’s second or subsequent DUI arrest.

Rep. Roger Goodman (D-Kirkland), the chairman of the state DUI working group, says that could have prevented an alleged drunk driver who smashed into a family crossing the street in Seattle’s Wedgwood neighborhood, killing two and critically injuring their daughter and grandson, from driving.

“He flaunted every court order, but there wasn’t this requirement to certify to the court that you’ve done it,” Goodman said of Mark Mullan, 50. According to court documents, Mullan had been driving with a suspended license and he had ignored a court order from a prior arrest to install an interlock device.

The bill also calls for 24/7 alcohol and drug monitoring after a repeat offender gets out of jail, and expands drug and alcohol treatment as an alternative to increased jail time.

While the bill has strong bipartisan support and the backing of Governor Jay Inslee, the biggest sticking point remains the budget. Critics argue the state, cities, and counties can’t afford to pay for the increased number of people that will be jailed.

“There might be some reductions in items that are deemed to be costing too much, but we’re going to be holding drunk drivers accountable more than we ever have with some smart new measures here and this bill will pass,” he said Wednesday.

The cost of expanded treatment options is also a concern. Goodman is counting on federal grants and private insurance to pay for what he considers one of the biggest keys to reducing DUIs: getting more people clean and sober.

“I want to make sure that we have sufficient funding for those that need alcohol treatment for those that have an alcohol problem.”

The measure now goes to the House Appropriations Committee, which is struggling to come up with an entire state budget. But Goodman remains confident lawmakers will ultimately approve a bill by the end of the special session.

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