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Drunk drivers who kill could face stiffer sentences

Drunk drivers who cause deadly accidents in Washington rarely spend more than two years in prison. A bill working its way through the state legislature would increase the maximum sentence to eight years.

Prosecutors and people who've lost loved ones to accidents caused by drunk drivers say it's about time. King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg says it's all about justice.  He recently told the King County Council that the toughest part of his job is having to sit down with someone who’s lost a family member in a drunk driving accident knowing how little prison time the perpetrator will get. He says it does little to deter the crime.

"The thing that’s most hurtful about drunk driving fatalities is it’s so random. It isn’t something the victim did anything to contribute to. Someone crosses the center line and kills them and the drunk drivers tend to walk away without a scratch and we have to tell the family about the low penalty for the drunk driver," Satterberg said.

HB 2216, which passed the State House of Representatives 98-0, would increase the penalty for vehicular homicide by DUI to 100 months.  A similar law is being considered by the state Senate.

Satterberg says the new penalty would be similar to what someone gets who's found guilty of manslaughter for accidentally killing someone with a gun.

Paula is a former host, reporter and producer who retired from KNKX in 2021. She joined the station in 1989 as All Things Considered host and covered the Law and Justice beat for 15 years. Paula grew up in Idaho and, prior to KNKX, worked in public radio and television in Boise, San Francisco and upstate New York.