Rep. Harris legislation to protect vulnerable victims one step closer to passing the House

A bill from Rep. Paul Harris that would allow judges to impose criminal penalties for negligent driving involving the death of a vulnerable victim, has passed out of the House Transportation Committee.

House Bill 1112, which previously received unanimous support from the Community Safety, Justice and Reentry Committee, would allow judges, at their discretion, to impose criminal penalties for negligent driving involving the death of a vulnerable victim. It would also create a gross misdemeanor offense of negligent driving with a vulnerable victim in the first degree.

“My heart aches for the constituent who brought this to my attention,” said Harris. “It was a tragedy no one should have to go through. Accidents happen, but we need to make sure judges at least have the option to hold negligent drivers accountable if they take someone’s life.”

HB 1112 would allow for a person to be found guilty of an offense when he or she operates a vehicle in a manner that is both negligent and endangers, or is likely to endanger, any person or property and causes the death of someone using a public way.

“I want to see this bill become law,” said Harris. “I know every traffic accident is different, but under current law, a person can walk away from killing another individual and be punished with what amounts to a slap on the wrist. Judges need to have the authority impose penalties that fit the crime when appropriate.”

If the bill reaches the governor’s desk, a judge would be able to impose a penalty of up to 364 days of imprisonment, a $5,000 fine, which may not be reduced below $1,000, and suspension of driving privileges for 90 days.

The bill now waits for a vote on the House floor.


Washington State House Republican Communications