Rep. Goodman’s reforms on DUI accountability, domestic violence protections, others signed into law
April 5, 2012 · 4:56 PM
A new law signed March 30 by Gov. Chris Gregoire enacts sweeping changes to DUI statutes that will increase the accountability of offenders and make it harder for them to repeat their crimes.
“Drunk drivers kill more people than all other criminals combined, and the best way to get them off our roads is to increase the certainty and fear of accountability for their crimes,” said Roger Goodman (D-Kirkland), who sponsored the law signed today (House Bill 2443).
A recent Seattle Times article on Goodman’s argument for tougher DUI laws confirmed that drunk drivers killed 2,042 people in Washington between 2000 and 2010, while intentional killings claimed a total of 2,028 lives during the same period.
The Goodman DUI reforms that were signed into law:
• Require cameras to be installed on alcohol-detecting ignition-interlock devices — at no cost to the state — to prevent offenders from fooling the technology by having someone else breathe into the device.
• Authorize law enforcement officers to administer breath or blood tests for felony DUI arrests without the suspect’s consent.
• Expand DUI laws to cover “huffing” — inhaling intoxicating or hallucinatory vapors to get high.
• Make DUI offenders liable for up to $2,500 of emergency-response costs, up from $1,000.
• Require plea agreements and sentences for felony DUI cases to be kept as public records, while preventing courts from vacating convictions for felony DUI.
• Give courts the authority to order offenders to submit to alcohol monitoring.
The measure also ensures that offenders and the ignition-interlock industry will cover the full costs of operating an effective ignition-interlock program through the Washington State Patrol. Another provision gives cities the ability to create DUI courts or enter into agreements with counties for DUI court services. Currently, only counties can operate DUI courts.
In addition to signing Goodman’s drunk-driving reforms into law, Gregoire also signed the following reforms and protections into law:
Increased protections for domestic-violence victims
New protections for domestic-violence victims who risk being tracked down by their abusers were signed into law on March 30.
The measure, sponsored by Goodman, stiffens penalties for violating no-contact orders and makes it harder for abusers to locate their fleeing victims.
“Many victims of domestic violence live in constant fear that they and their children will be located by their abusers,” said Goodman. “Protecting the confidentiality of their whereabouts and showing zero tolerance for intentional violations of no-contact orders will help them to feel and be safer, and could literally save their own and their children’s lives.”
The new law (House Bill 2363) requires courts and others to respect the confidentiality of information that would allow perpetrators of domestic violence to locate their victim’s residence, employer, school, or place of refuge. Maliciously releasing confidential information about the location of a domestic violence program for any purpose other than required by a court hearing would be a gross misdemeanor — punishable by up to 364 days in jail.
The law also increases the penalty for violating no-contact orders in harassment cases from a misdemeanor to a gross misdemeanor, and requires defendants who are arrested for violating anti-harassment protection orders to appear in person before a judge within one working day after the arrest.
Courts that have probable cause will also be able to issue or extend no-contact orders even if the defendant fails to appear at arraignment.
“Strengthening privacy protections for domestic-violence victims is critical to their safety and the safety of our communities,” said Grace Huang, public policy coordinator for the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence. “We are very pleased that House Bill 2363 is becoming law.”
The Goodman measure looks ahead to the potential need for additional protections for domestic-violence victims by directing the Washington State Institute of Public Policy to assess recidivism by domestic-violence offenders and the effectiveness domestic-violence treatment programs.
Goodman, who serves as vice chair of the House Judiciary Committee, has long championed legislative efforts to reduce domestic violence.
In 2010, he authored House Bill 2777, an omnibus reform that was the most sweeping rewrite of domestic-violence laws in 30 years.
Restorative justice for juvenile offenders
Gregoire signed into law a new “restorative justice” judicial option on March 30 that encourages non-violent juvenile offenders to take responsibility for their actions and repair the harm their crimes have done to victims and the community.
“Young offenders who accept responsibility for repairing the damage done by their crimes are much less likely to reoffend and hurt others,” said Goodman. He sponsored the bill and led it to unanimous passage in the House and Senate.
Restorative justice is a judicial strategy that brings together crime victims, offenders, their families, and relevant community members to help the juveniles understand how their crimes have affected others and what they must do to make sufficient restoration.
According to the Washington State Institute for Public Policy (WSIPP), restorative-justice programs could save victims and taxpayers more than $7,000 per case in reduced crime and criminal-justice costs. WSIPP has supplied the research behind much of the state’s progress in implementing evidence-based crime-fighting strategies.
Goodman’s House Bill 1775 allows satisfactory completion of a restorative-justice program to satisfy diversion agreements made with juvenile offenders—but only when participation by the victim and all parties is voluntary.
Restorative-justice agreements, like other diversion agreements, would not be an option for violent crimes or felonies.
The measure also provides the first definition of the concept of “restorative justice” in Washington state law.
“Adding restorative-justice to our crime-fighting toolbox is another great step in using cost-effective best practices to achieve better results,” said Goodman.
Garnishment reform signed, more work ahead
New reforms to Washington’s garnishment statutes will cut paperwork costs for businesses and allow struggling wage earners to keep more of their money. But Goodman, the lead sponsor of the reforms that were signed into law last week, says there is still more work to do to clear up issues raised by a recent state Supreme Court case.
“These reforms will allow wage earners to keep an additional $145 a month in their pockets as they pay off their debts,” said Goodman. “Small businesses will also see important savings because we streamlined the garnishment process and cleaned up a host of confusing forms and paperwork requirements.”
The increase in the amount of wages that debtors can keep reflects the first update of state wage-exemptions to garnishment in 25 years.
But Goodman said lawmakers will still need to address the issue of whether state-administered pensions should be subject to garnishment in wrongful death cases or other extraordinary circumstances.
The wrongful-death issue arose after the state Supreme Court ruled in February that laws which exempt state-administered pensions from most types of garnishment don’t apply after the funds are deposited in the pensioners’ bank accounts.
The February ruling involved a case where a Tacoma police officer, Walter Copland, was convicted of first-degree manslaughter for killing Harvey Anthis. Bonnie Anthis, the widow of Harvey Anthis, won a civil suit against Copland and sought to collect the judgment from Copland’s pension.
The Supreme Court ruled that state law clearly prevents federal pensions from being garnished after the funds are transferred to the pensioner, but the law is unclear about whether that restriction applies to state-administered pensions. The court ruled that, in the absence of clear legislative intent, state-administered pensions can be garnished once the funds have been transferred to the pensioner.
“We were stunned,” said Goodman. “The pensions of 290,000 active and retired members of state-administered pension plans were suddenly open to garnishment for any purpose. The pensions of local police, firefighters, city and county employees, as well as state employees, were instantly put at risk by the court’s decision.”
In order to protect current and future retirees, Goodman amended his garnishment reform (House Bill 1552) to clarify that the exemptions to garnishing state-administered pensions apply both before and after pensioners receive their money.
“The tragedy — and I feel sick about it — is that restoring the long-standing state policy on garnishment worked against Bonnie Anthis,” said Goodman. “I think we need to change the law to ensure that she and others are treated justly in wrongful death cases, but we can’t do it overnight. We need a transparent process, with public hearings, and we need to bring together all involved parties to carefully consider the scope and potential consequences of any change we make.”
Goodman urged Gregoire to ask the Legislature’s Select Committee on Pension Policy to examine whether pensions should be subject to garnishment in extraordinary cases, such as the wrongful death judgment won by Bonnie Anthis. Gregoire agreed and sent a letter to the committee on Thursday.
“I believe justice will win out in the end for Bonnie Anthis and others in similar situations, but it will take time to ensure any changes are done right,” Goodman said.