The state Senate unanimously approved a bill Wednesday to allow Washington judges to impose stiffer sentences for vehicular homicide.
The measure sponsored by Sen. Sharon Brown, R-Kennewick, is known as Jason’s Law and was introduced in response to a 2015 hit-and-run in Pasco that killed Jason E. Smith, a 36-year-old Kennewick father.
“I know this bill cannot bring Jason back to his family but we can make it clear that we will take every action possible to prevent reckless criminals from destroying another family,” said Brown.
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 so he could not be tested for drugs or alcohol. The sentence for a DUI is much tougher than for reckless driving.
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Paniagua was convicted of vehicular homicide and sentenced to the maximum term of 8 1/2 years. With good behavior, he could be out in less than four, said Brown.
Under Senate Bill 6219, the sentence for vehicular homicide while driving in a reckless manner would increase to a range of 78 to 102 months, similar to the current range for vehicular homicide while driving under the influence.
The bill now goes to the House of Representatives for consideration.