Drunk driver gets less than 3 years in prison for hitting 5 people

A woman who was driving with a blood alcohol level of more than 3 times the legal limit, who ran over five pedestrians, has been sentenced to 29 months in prison.

Wright, 43, pleaded guilty earlier this month to three counts of vehicular assault and one count of reckless driving in connection with the accident that sent four people to the hospital. One victim, a 28-year-old woman, suffered a brain injury that required doctors to remove a portion of her skull, according to charging paperwork.

The sentence imposed Friday by King County Superior Court Judge Bruce Heller was at the high end of the sentencing range, according to the King County prosecutor’s website.

I dunno what to say.


4 Responses to “Drunk driver gets less than 3 years in prison for hitting 5 people”

  • Ugh, really, we must change our drink-drive laws. What a joke of a sentence.

  • If Juanita Wright been charged with and convicted of all 5 assaults, the maximum standard sentence still would have been appallingly short: probably 4 years at the most. But even if those sentencing guidelines were more reasonable, what good would it have done if the King County prosecutor is unwilling or unable to vigorously pursue justice for all? Wright may have hit 5 people, but she was only charged with 4 counts of vehicular assault, because apparently the King County prosecutor doesn’t think everyone hit by drunk drivers deserves justice—only those who get hurt badly enough to go to the ER. And then despite being charged with 4 counts of vehicular assault, the King County prosecutor accepted Wright’s plea of guilty to 3 counts of vehicular assault plus 1 count of reckless driving. Justice for 3/5 is good enough for the King County prosecutor.

    The prosecutor’s argument is presumably that he can only pursue charges he’s confident he can win, and that plea bargains, unlike juries, are sure bets. To me such an argument smacks of complicity, cowardice, or incompetence (I suspect a healthy dose of all three). The result in this case, as in at least one other recent and very highly publicized incident, suggests that Dan Satterberg has no idea what the public he represents wants or needs from its prosecutors. I prefer to see justice decided by 12 citizens rather than by lawyers behind closed doors, even if that means accepting the uncertainty of a full jury trial and the greater expense of a longer trial. And I think much of the public feels the same way. Unfortunately Satterberg isn’t up for reelection for over three years, and since he ran unopposed last time, there’s no guarantee we’ll get a chance to kick him out even in 2014. As a result, I don’t expect to see justice done for a whole lotta folks for at least the next three years.

  • Huh, in the Netherlands it would be something like immediate suspension of license, mandatory 800 euro three day safety training course that failing out of would result in the permanent revocation of their license. Source: “When Cyclists Matter” on youtube:


    • Your comment suggests that the laws in the Netherlands are laxer than ours, but you’re overlooking a critical detail: the driver in that story was not drunk, whereas Juanita Wright was very drunk. If that driver had been drunk, he would have faced much stiffer penalties, just as Wright would have.

      According to this site, hitting someone while drunk in the Netherlands carries a sentence of up to three years, i.e. one charge of vehicular assault in the Netherlands carries a stiffer sentence than three charges of vehicular assault plus one charge of reckless driving in Washington. Wright would’ve got closer to 9 years in the Netherlands (15 if she’d been charged and convicted of all the assaults she actually committed) compared to the 2½ she got here.

      It should also be noted that the legal limit in the Netherlands is .05, which is 40% lower than the limit in Washington. And that drops to .02 if you’ve had your license less than 5 years. Moreover, “in the Amsterdam police region, approximately 90,000 motorists are tested at random annually. This is the equivalent of one test in every five driver’s license holders in the Amsterdam region” (source). In Washington, on the other hand, you’ll never see a random DUI checkpoint, as we’re one of only 11 states that doesn’t conduct them—they’re illegal under our state constitution. The DUI laws in our state are a complete joke.

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