Editor’s note: Today’s editorial originally appeared in The Seattle Times and The Walla Walla Union-Bulletin. Editorial content from other publications and authors is provided to give readers a sampling of regional and national opinion and does not necessarily reflect positions endorsed by the Editorial Board of The Daily News.
When Washingtonians repeatedly put other people’s lives at risk by getting behind the wheel drunk or high, leniency shouldn’t be part of the conversation. State senators last week declined to help prosecutors crack down on people who refuse to learn the lesson that drinking and driving never go together. Time remains to correct that mistake.
Seattle Times reporter Christine Clarridge recently told the story of Joseph Shaun Goodman, who was arrested for a DUI in Seattle. It was his eighth impaired-driving arrest in 26 years, most of which had ended in convictions. Yet because they were spaced out enough, this new arrest won’t be a felony.
Washington law calls for a felony DUI charge when someone has three previous convictions for driving while impaired in the previous 10 years. A bipartisan group of senators wanted to increase that window to 15 years, but the Democratic Senate majority voted down their bill (SB 5299) shortly before Wednesday’s 5 p.m. deadline to advance legislation.
The Senate could have a do-over, though. The House passed a bill (HB 1504) related to impaired driving. And the Senate could amend it with the felony language because it’s on the same topic.
Other states have similarly strict rules for repeat offenders. In Oregon, for example, voters passed a ballot measure in 2010 setting felony threshold at two previous convictions in 10 years.
The most substantive concern raised was cost. Officials estimate that the 15-year window would lead to 129 more felony DUI convictions and incarcerations per year.
Anyone can mess up once. It’s not excusable, but one mistake shouldn’t necessarily stain someone’s record for life. That’s why Washington has a diversion program for first time DUI offenders. They can earn a second chance through education and good behavior.
It’s almost impossible to manufacture sympathy for repeat offenders, though. By the fourth offense in a decade — or 15 years — they have proved that the threat of a misdemeanor isn’t enough to convince them to drive sober or just call an Uber or Lyft. They lack the fundamental respect for the law and public safety that most people have.
Senators should have passed the original bill. Now they should take advantage of their second chance.
Attorney general’s aggressive stand against opioids is on target
Attorney General Bob Ferguson’s aggressive efforts to protect Washingtonians from the insidious addiction caused by opioids should be applauded.
The opioid epidemic, which is as devastating to rural communities as it is big cities, simply can’t be tolerated.
Ferguson is focusing efforts at the source of the addiction — the drugs themselves.
Ferguson’s office last week announced a lawsuit against three opioid distributors the attorney general said ignored their responsibility to suspend and report suspicious orders from Washington pharmacies.
The lawsuit is against McKesson, Cardinal Health and AmerisourceBergen Drug, which are largest opioid distributors in the state. Earlier, Ferguson’s office filed a lawsuit against opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma. Fergusin said the opioid epidemic is linked to the deaths of 8,000 state residents.
“We’ve seen the data and it is shocking,” Ferguson said when announcing the latest lawsuit.
We agree. And that’s why we have continued to push for state and local officials to take legal action to curb the abuses of this highly addictive drug.
Last year the Walla Walla County commissioners took action to preparing to join national litigation to sue the makers, as well as wholesalers, of the painkillers for damages.
The opioid crisis must be stopped.
The Walla Walla County Coroner’s Office reported in 2016 and 2017 that 21 residents died of opioid overdoses. Forthy-five of of the 65 overdose deaths in the county between 2011 and 2017 involved opioids, including prescription drugs, heroin and fentanyl.
Ferguson’s 58-page complaint released last week says the state had access to data showing the three companies, combined, shipped at least 269,000 suspicious orders into Washington between 2006 and 2014. Orders are deemed suspicious when, for example, a pharmacy orders several times the amount it previously ordered.
Distributors are legally obliged to stop such shipments, and report the orders to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. By not doing so, Ferguson’s lawsuit contends, the companies violated Washington’s Consumer Protection Act and engaged in negligence.
The distributors sent so many opioids into the state that, at various times, prescriptions in 16 of the state’s 39 counties outnumbered the population.
In Asotin County, for example, roughly 147 prescriptions were ordered for every 100 people. Columbia County and Benton County, too, had more prescriptions than people.
Ferguson’s aggressive approach seems to be the right prescription for this pernicious and deadly problem.