Story Summary

Suspected DUI accidents

In 2012, 38,000 people were arrested for driving impaired, according to the Washington Department of Transportation. In 2011, there were more than 6,000 DUI-related crashes.  Of all the fatal accidents in Washington, more than one-third involved alcohol.

Within a 10-day period in 2013 (from March 25 until April 3), three people in the Seattle area were killed in two separate accidents by suspected drunken drivers. The incidents led to calls for tougher DUI legislation.

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Local News

State Senate passes, sends House bill to toughen DUI laws

DUI-DefenseOLYMPIA — The state Senate unanimously approved and sent the House legislation Wednesday aimed at trying to keep first-time DUI offenders from driving drunk again.

Under the measure, Senate Bill 5912, would require an automatic arrest for a second DUI offense, and those booked on suspicion of a second DUI would need to have ignition-interlock devices installed on their vehicles before their cases even go to trial.

In addition, the legislation features the introduction of a 24/7 sobriety pilot program in three counties and two cities, which will be used in place of or in addition to electronic home monitoring.

“This (bill) should help repeat DUI offenders to stay sober, or at least avoid getting behind the wheel again when they’re under the influence,” said state Sen. Mike Padden, R-Spokane Valley, the sponsor of the measure.

“This bill is less about punishment than it is about preventing DUI offenders from harming others – and adding another conviction to their records,” Padden said. “I hope the House moves this bill through and on to the governor’s desk.”

accident2SEATTLE — A woman was arrested early Sunday for DUI vehicular assault after a van she was driving went through a stop sign in West Seattle and broadsided a car traveling through the intersection, critically injuring two people, police said.

The accident occurred at about 2 a.m.

The van was northbound on 17th Avenue SW when it drove through a stop sign at SW Cambridge Street without stopping, police said, and plowed into the side of a small car with two people in it, police said.

The impact drove the car up the sidewalk, into a fence and crushed the driver’s side halfway into the passenger side, police said. Both occupants of the car received critical injuries, police added.

The four occupants of the van got out and ran westbound across Delridge Way, police said, where responding officers caught them.

The woman driver was booked into King County Jail on a charge of DUI vehicular assault.




wrong way victim carSEATTLE — The King County Prosecutor’s Office announced Friday that Michael Anthony Robertson pleaded guilty to DUI vehicular homicide for a collision on state road 520 that killed a woman. The crash took place about 5:30 a.m. on April 4.

Morgan Williams, 58, was driving to her job at Eddie Bauer’s in Bellevue when Robertson struck her head-on. At the scene of the accident, police said they could smell alcohol on Robertson’s breath.

Robertson also pleaded guilty to a prior DUI case from Tacoma. He faces a sentence range from 78 to 102 months in prison, in addition to a 24-month sentencing enhancement for the Tacoma DUI. Prosecutors said they will recommend the top of the range sentence of 126 months in prison.

Last year, the state legislature approved a bill that doubled the standard range for DUI vehicular homicide. The bill makes the sentencing equal to an indictment for first-degree manslaughter.

Robertson, 25,will be sentenced July 26 at 1 p.m. at the King County Courthouse.

Arrest and sirenSEATTLE — A suspected DUI driver was arrested after he lost control of his car and crashed into the TJ Max building in north Seattle Wednesday afternoon, the police department said.

At about 1:06 p.m., officers responded to 911 reports of a car that crashed into the building in the 11000 block of Roosevelt Way NE.  The police department said witnesses also reported hat the man and woman who were in the 1973 Plymouth Scamp had left the scene on foot after the crash.

While officers were on scene investigating, the 25-year-old suspect and his girlfriend returned.  Officers arrested the suspect and transported him to the North Precinct where he was investigated and processed for suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs (DUI).

The suspect was subsequently booked into the King County Jail for DUI, and hit-and-run and property damage.

Officers interviewed and released the female passenger.

wrongwayTUKWILA — The Washington State Patrol is looking for people who witnessed a driver suspected to be under the influence going the wrong way on an on-ramp on Interstate 5 Monday morning and causing a collision. The two-vehicle, head-on injury crash occurred Monday shortly after 8 a.m in Tukwila.

WSP said the collision was on the Southcenter Parkway on-ramp to northbound I-5. The vehicles involved were a 1988 Dodge pickup truck and 1995 Saturn sedan.

Troopers said the 41-year-old driver of the pickup truck was traveling southbound in northbound lane of I-5. The driver then exited to Southcenter Parkway the same time the driver of the  Saturn entered northbound I-5 from Southcenter Parkway. The vehicles then collided.

Anyone with information about the accident is asked to contact detective Sgt. John Anderson at 425-401-7745 or detective Greg Wilcoxson at 425-401-7746.

duiOLYMPIA — Gov. Jay Inslee said Sunday night that “great progress” has been made on proposed drunken driving legislation and that a bill to toughen DUI laws is “95 percent complete.”

“We hope the Legislature will be able to pass it in the first few days of the special session,” which is set to begin May 13, Inslee said at a news briefing to announce the special session.

Inslee was hesitant to provide details, saying it is a bipartisan bill that will be announced by leaders of both parties later.

But the governor said there will be some increased jail time for repeat DUI offenders, that the number of offenses before it becomes a felony would be lowered from five to four, and “we will actually have a way to stop people from drinking alcohol after their second offense” through alcohol-detection bracelets that offenders would be required to wear.

Some offenders will be allowed to undergo alcohol abuse treatment rather than go to jail.

SEATTLE — We’re barely into spring, but we have already seen an alarming number of fatal accidents caused by suspected drunk drivers – it’s a tragic reality Seattle Police are committed to changing.

duiThe SPD DUI squad is specially trained to identify drivers under the influence of both drugs and alcohol — and they say their busy season is just getting started.

Seattle Police invited Q13 FOX News along for an exclusive look at their patrols.

Officer Eric Michl is an expert at detecting impaired drivers, whether they’ve been drinking or doing something else like drugs.

“It’s how a person talks, their speech, what they smell like, what we see in their eyes,” said Michl.

Callers phoned 911 saying the saw a truck hit a fence then took off, and Seattle Police quickly identified the vehicle.

The guy inside is apparently passed out, officers can’t wake him up, so cops have to smash their way inside.

Police say the suspect has a prior DUI from 2003, but the open can of beer in his center console suggests he hasn’t learned his lesson.

When they get him out of the truck, he can barely stand up let alone pilot a vehicle.

On the scale of DUI offenders, the guy who hits a fence then pulls over and passes out is like a bullet that didn’t hit anyone.

Michl was also on the scene last month after drunken driving suspect Mark Mullan struck four people in Wedgwood, killing two and sending a mother and her baby to intensive care.

Officer Michl says until we all change our attitudes about letting people drive under the influence; more people are going to die.

“Until we as a society accept that this is not a good thing to do and we’re mindful of that, I don’t’ see it changing,” said Michl.

Since January, the Washington State Patrol has locked up 1000 suspected drunk drivers in Thurston and Pierce and nearly 1000 arrests in King County alone. In the North metro, more than 1200 were arrested in Snohomish, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom counties.

As for the fence-busting truck driver, he winds up at the west precinct for a breathalyzer – and he doesn’t do well.

“Your breath alcohol level is a .257 and a .239,” said Michl. “That’s four times legally intoxicated in state law here. That’s a lot of alcohol.”

The suspect was too intoxicated to be locked up – so medics took him to a local hospital to sober him up.

Local News

New ideas aimed at toughening DUI laws raised

OLYMPIA – The Legislature’s Impaired Driving Group heard new suggestions Tuesday for trying to curb drunken driving, while state Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, said he hoped to move a bill toughening the DUI laws onto the House and Senate floors by Sunday.

“The victims don’t get a second chance at life, and so we seem to be giving the drunk drivers a second chance to kill,” Goodman said of the current situation.

At an Impaired Driving Group meeting Tuesday, members discussed suggestions of possibly allowing the seizure of a vehicle after a driver’s third DUI or prohibiting someone from even entering an establishment where the primary commodity is liquor.

Meanwhile, Goodman said he hopes to have the current bill aimed at toughening DUI laws – HB 2030 and SB 5912 – onto the floor by the Legislature’s adjournment date of Sunday, April 28.

The bills would increase jail time so a second conviction would require an offender to choose either six months behind bars, or treatment and wear an alcohol-detection bracelet that would alert the court if the driver consumes any alcohol.  A third conviction would require seven months in jail and the same alternative for treatment.

Also on a third DUI conviction, an offender would be issued a vertical driver’s license, which would prohibit the offender from buying alcohol at a bar or store.

Goodman also wanted ignition interlock devices to be installed while the driver’s car is in impound immediately after they are arrested, but the ACLU raised constitutional concerns.

“Then you’re really relying on law enforcement to make that determination out in the field; that’s a situation where you could sweep in a lot of people who are innocent,” the ACLU’s Shankar Narayan said.

Some of the provisions are controversial but Goodman is committed to trying to keep impaired drivers off the road.

“I’ve heard a lot of cynical comments about people are going to get around this and find a way to get alcohol or drive someone else’s car.  Some people are going to do that, but we’re going to make it a lot harder,” said Goodman.

OLYMPIA — There are up to 40,000 DUI arrests every year in Washington and most are first-time offenders like Hannah Casar.

“I am very careful now going out; I think it’s really helped me, I think the one-time conviction,” said Casar.

King County prosecutor Dan Satterberg wants stricter DUI laws and believes resources should be spent on the 13% who are repeat offenders.

“I want to focus on repeat offenders, not try for everything for everybody,” said Satterberg.

The bill sets mandatory minimum jail times for second and third offenses, but offenders can avoid a six-month jail term on a second offense if they enroll in an approved sobriety program and wear a special bracelet that would alert authorities if they ingest any alcohol.

On a third offense, offenders would be sentenced to a year in jail and issued an identification card that would prohibit them from purchasing alcohol for 10 years.

It would also require that ignition interlock devices be installed during the mandatory 12-hour impounding of a vehicle after a DUI arrest — and before a conviction.

Top safety officials attending a hearing in Olympia Thursday said, however, that the new DUI bill, HB 2030, is too broad and focuses too much on first-time offenders.

State Rep. Roger Goodman, D-Kirkland, said he’s taking that advice to heart. Some say Goodman’s solution to rehabilitate repeat offenders is certainly bold.

“On your third DUI conviction, you will receive a special driver’s license that’s marked that will prohibit you from being sold or served alcohol,” said Goodman.

Under this bill, with a second DUI conviction, offenders will get the chance to pick between jail or taking a sobriety program.

“For the court to say you can’t drink alcohol anymore, that is a bold move; whether or not the courts are ready to enforce it or not is another question,” said Satterberg.

Lawmakers are discussing technology that could help supervise those who choose sobriety, including a special bracelet that can detect alcohol through the skin.  But the costs are big and Goodman said the expense will be fronted by the offenders, not taxpayers.

“Ordering people not to drink is a futile effort if you don’t have a drug treatment program,” said Satterberg,

Goodman said prison is not the answer and he hopes to emphasize treatment in the fight against DUIs.

“The thing now that’s most promising right now is that people are talking about DUI because, frankly, the answer is not the new laws but in the attitude,” said Satterberg.

For Casar, that attitude change unfortunately came with handcuffs but says she will never do it again.

“Have a plan of how you are going to get home,” advised Casar.

The ACLU said installing ignition interlock devices on people’s vehicles before they are convicted of a DUI could be a violation of rights. They want a judge to have probable cause before they mandate the device be installed.

Goodman said that is a good point and the bill will be rewritten to reflect that. But the Legislature is scheduled to complete business on April 28.