Today the House of Representatives unanimously approved Jason’s Law, sponsored by Sen. Sharon Brown to allow stiffer prison sentences in vehicular-homicide cases.
Brown introduced her measure in response to an April 2, 2015, hit-and-run in Pasco that took the life of 36-year-old Kennewick father Jason E. Smith.
A gang member was speeding through Pasco and trying to elude the police at over 100 mph. The chase became so reckless that emergency dispatch called it off; however, the gang member did not stop and continued speeding through a residential area. The offender ended up crashing into Smith. When Franklin County Prosecutor Shawn Sant tried to charge the gang member for the incident he realized there was a disparity in the law.
“The sentence for a DUI is much tougher than for reckless driving,” said Brown, R-Kennewick. “Under current law, a person can be incarcerated longer for a non-fatal DUI offense than for killing someone by driving in a reckless manner; that needed to change.
“It won’t bring Jason back, but I am glad that my colleagues in both the House and Senate have voted unanimously to strengthen the sentencing guidelines and send a clear message that we will take every action possible to prevent reckless criminals from destroying another family.”
Under Substitute Senate Bill 6219 the sentencing range for vehicular homicide while driving in a reckless manner, now 21-27 months, would increase to 78-102 months – similar to the current penalty for vehicular homicide while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The new law also allows for imposing a lesser sentence if the person has committed no other previous serious traffic offenses and the longer sentence would clearly be excessive.
“Jason’s family and Prosecutor Sant came to the Capitol numerous times to testify on behalf of the bill,” Brown pointed out. “They deserve a lot of the credit for helping tell Jason’s story and getting lawmakers in both chambers to act to rectify this disparity in the law.”