Senate unanimously passes Jason’s Law

Sen. Sharon Brown’s bill to allow longer vehicular-homicide sentences moves to the House of Representatives

Today the Senate unanimously approved a bill that would let Washington judges hand down stiffer sentences for vehicular homicide. The measure, known as Jason’s Law, is sponsored by Sen. Sharon Brown and was introduced in response to a 2015 hit-and-run in Pasco that took the life of 36-year-old Kennewick father Jason E. Smith.

“I know this bill cannot bring Jason back to his family,” said Brown, R-Kennewick, “but we can make it clear that we will take every action possible to prevent reckless criminals from destroying another family.”

Miguel Paniagua, who was speeding away from police when his car collided with Smith’s last April 2, eluded police capture for 13 days following the crash. There was no way once Paniagua was arrested for law enforcement to test him for drugs and alcohol. The sentence for a DUI is much tougher than for reckless driving, but police have a very slim timeframe in which to gather evidence. Paniagua was convicted of vehicular homicide and given the maximum sentence possible under current guidelines – only 8.5 years. With good behavior, he could be out in less than 4 years.

Under Senate Bill 6219, the sentence for vehicular homicide while driving in a reckless manner would increase from the current range of 21-27 months to a range of 78-102 months, which is similar to the current range for vehicular homicide while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

SB 6219 now goes to the House of Representatives for its consideration.