"Andrea's Law" would increase prison sentences for several DUI crimes.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – A series of stiffer penalties were proposed Monday for a variety of DUI-related crimes in response to the death of a 14-year-old girl late last year.
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Del. Brian Savilla (R-Putnam) is the lead sponsor of “Andrea’s Law,” which is named for Andrea Bailes. She was killed by a drunk driver in the Guyandotte area of Huntington Nov. 18, Cabell County sheiff’s deputies say.
The bill has five sponsors and calls for several changes to existing laws, including the following:
-A person found guilty of DUI causing death would be sentenced to life in prison. The current sentence is two to 10 years.
-If the death occurs within a year of injury, a person would be guilty of a felony as opposed to a misdemeanor and go to prison for 10 to 40 years. The current sentence is 90 days to one year in jail.
-If an impaired driver injures another person but the victim survives, the driver would be now be guilty of a felony as opposed to a misdemeanor and be sentenced to three to 15 years in prison. The current sentence is a maximum of one year in jail.
-A person found guilty of a third, or subsequent, DUI offense would face three to 10 years in prison, an increase from the current sentencing range of one to three years.
"I feel that if I don't do something, or something is not done, you're just not doing what's best for her now," says Deana Spaulding, Andrea’s mother.
Spaulding approached Del. Savilla about working on the bill.
"Someone like my daughter has to lose her life for someone to understand that it's not OK for someone to be in trouble with the law for the same thing over and over and over," says Spaulding.
Savilla says the state’s DUI penalties are overdue to be overhauled.
"The way they look at DUIs is almost a joke" says Savilla. "You're driving on the main roads and (putting) everybody's life at risk."
Jennifer Rollins, a mother of two, knows she was lucky to be alive after a repeat drunk driver hit her.
But, more than a year later, she's still struggling even to remember things.
"I have to rely on my 9-year-old little girl if it's something I have to do," says Rollins.
She eventually had the chance to face Donny Workman, the man who hit her, during his sentencing hearing.
But, she was in for a surprise.
"I didn't find that out until actually the day of the sentencing. So, I was very upset. They told me it could only be a felony if he would have killed me," says Rollins, who nearly died from her injuries.
If Andrea's law passes, a case like the one Rollins experienced would become a felony.
"Right now they just see it as, 'Oh, I'll just get a slap on the wrist.' And then they'll just go on," says Rollins.
There also have been discussions this legislative session of trying to get the prison population under control because of overcrowding.
So, Savilla says he expects there could be some pushback from lawmakers concerned about locking up more people for longer periods of time. He says he thinks the seriousness of DUI crimes should outweigh those concerns.