Rep. Jacobsen’s bill to make felony hit-and-run ineligible for a first-time waiver receives a public hearing

The Community Safety, Justice, and Reentry Committee held a public hearing on legislation from Rep. Cyndy Jacobsen on Thursday. House Bill 1967 would prohibit a defendant who is convicted of a fatal hit-and-run from being eligible for a first-time offender waiver.

“Right now, if a person hits and kills another individual with their vehicle and leaves the scene, they could walk away with a sentence of 90 days or less,” said Jacobsen, R-Puyallup. “Felony hit-and-run is a serious offense, and morally reprehensible. Anyone who knowingly leaves the scene of an accident while another person’s life is in danger, should be held accountable. However, because of the possible waiver, that person could essentially get away with murder.”

Under current law, a defendant convicted of a felony offense may be eligible for a first-time offender waiver under certain conditions. The defendant could qualify for the waiver if he or she has never been convicted of a felony, or participated in a deferred prosecution for a felony, and the current conviction is not for:

  • A violent offense.
  • A sex offense.
  • The manufacture, delivery, or sale of certain controlled substances.
  • A felony driving under the influence or physical control offense.

In the last three years, seven individuals have been granted a first-time offender waiver for hit and run resulting in a death.

If House Bill 1967 were to become law, a hit-and-run resulting in someone’s death would be added to the list of felony offenses that are ineligible for a first-time offender waiver.

Currently, in sentencing a first-time offender, there is no guarantee he or she will receive prison time. The court can impose a sentence which may include up to 90 days of confinement in a facility operated or utilized under contract by the county and a requirement that the offender refrain from committing new offenses. However, a judge could also waive the sentence and let the person completely avoid jailtime.

The court may also impose up to six months of community custody unless treatment is ordered, in which case the period of community custody may include up to the period of treatment but shall not exceed one year.

“One of my constituents brough this issue to my attention,” said Jacobsen. “Her son was tragically killed in a hit-and-run accident. They never found the person who took her son’s life. His family has never received justice for his death.

“Unfortunately, even if they had caught the person who committed this heinous act, it’s possible the defendant could have still walked away with almost zero punishment because felony hit-and-run is not on the list of ineligible offenses for the first-time waiver. We need to add felony hit-and-run to that list to give the families of these victims some justice.”

The bill will now wait for a vote from the committee.

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov