Rep. Jacobsen’s effort to hold felony hit-and-run offenders more accountable unanimously clears committee

The Community Safety, Justice, and Reentry Committee voted in favor of a bill from Rep. Cyndy Jacobsen on Tuesday. The committee unanimously approved House Bill 1967, which would prohibit a defendant who is convicted of a fatal hit-and-run from being eligible for a first-time offender waiver.

“Seven individuals have been granted a first-time offender waiver for hit and run resulting in a death over the last three years. That’s not okay,” said Jacobsen, R-Puyallup. “Fleeing the scene of an accident is a serious offense, especially if the accident is fatal.

“l introduced this bill because under current law, a person who leaves the scene of a fatal accident could be free after serving a maximum of just 90 days if he or she is a first-time offender. The punishment doesn’t fit the crime. Anyone who takes a life and flees the scene, needs to be held accountable for his or her actions.”

Currently, 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.

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.

“Accidents happen, but when a person decides to leave the scene, that accident becomes a crime,” said Jacobsen. “Anyone who makes a conscious decision to leave an accident scene when someone is dead or dying, should not be eligible for a first-time offense waiver.”

According to current state statute, 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 bill will now wait to be considered and voted on by the entire House.

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov