DUI sentencing guidelines need proper revision | Editorial
May 17, 2011 · Updated 9:37 AM
In a couple of weeks, high school seniors in Federal Way will celebrate their graduations. In those same few days, we will mark the one-year anniversary of the tragic deaths of young Derek King and Nicholas Hodgins, who were killed by drunk driver Alexander Peder.
Peder had a blood alcohol content of .16 that fateful night in June 2010. Peder was recently sentenced to 102 months (8.5 years) in prison for his crime, which was reported to be the maximum he could have received. This was a sentence that outraged many, inciting a visceral cry that Washington’s DUI laws are a joke.
But it may not be that our state’s vehicular homicide law is the problem. Rather, it may be that vehicular homicide is treated far too lightly under our state’s sentencing guidelines, complicated formulas that in the end pump out sentences that judges are expected to use.
Under the vehicular homicide statute, vehicular homicide is a Class A felony. Class A felonies are punishable by up to life in prison.
However, actual sentences are determined under sentencing guidelines, intended to help provide uniformity and fairness in sentencing. Each crime has its own “grid” and factors used in coming up with the actual sentence.
Let’s look at the actual sentence of Peder. He received two two-year “enhancements” because he had two prior DUI-related convictions. This means that the basic sentence he received for the two killings was 4.5 years.
Does anyone rationally believe that a 4.5 year sentence for two killings by a driver with a blood alcohol content of twice the legal limit is adequate punishment?
How can the vehicular homicide sentencing guidelines be so lenient as to “spit out” a maximum sentence of 4.5 years in such a circumstance?
Society needs to be much better protected from people who make the choice to repeatedly drive drunk and make the choice to drive while seriously impaired.
The state’s legislative, executive and judicial branches need to work together to revise the vehicular homicide sentencing guidelines so someone like Peder would be removed from society for much longer than 8.5 years.
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