TACOMA, Wash. - As he signed the bill that gives Washington state a tougher new drunken driving law, Governor Jay Inslee used one pen for each letter of his name, handing out souvenir pens to the family members of drunken driving victims.
The new law targets repeat drunken drivers mandating a jail booking for any drunken driver arrested more than once, and requires the driver to quit drinking entirely, as well as purchase an interlock device that prevents them from starting their car if they have any traces of alcohol in their system.
Inslee said the most powerful aspect of the new law is the requirement that offenders stop drinking, and that they be monitored using a device worn around the wrist 24 hours a day.
“We’re going to make sure, starting today, that they don’t drink, and we’re going to enforce that through technology," said Inslee.
Drivers will be expected to pay for the devices, but Inslee said taxpayers would be required to provide funding for some of the law’s features.
The new law gained wide support after a deadly crash in Seattle’s Wedgwood neighborhood that police blamed on a repeat drunken driver.
Dan Schulte, whose parents were killed by a suspected repeat drunken driver in March, when police said he ran them down in a crosswalk, said the new law is a good move, but more needs to be done. Schulte’s wife and 10-day-old son were also badly injured in that crash and are still recovering.
Schulte said he’s unhappy that a drunken driver in Washington state can be arrested and convicted four times in ten years before being charged with a felony. Drunken driving is usually prosecuted as a gross misdemeanor.
“We have to find a way to mark them as the felons they are," Schulte said, “because it’s a very serious and horrific crime.”
Some are questioning how some of the law’s mandates will be met without new funding. The requirement that two-time offenders are booked into jail means more people will be processed and held in jails already overcrowded or understaffed.
Pierce County Sheriff Paul Pastor praised the new law for making the goal of getting repeat offenders off the road a priority, but added it comes with the unfunded mandate of costly jail time.
“This will probably drive more need for jail capacity, more use of jails, so that is a cost” Pastor said.