Washington state lawmakers have introduced a bill that would reduce penalties for drive-by shootings with the goal of “promoting racial equity in the criminal legal system.”
The proposed legislation, House Bill 1692, would eliminate drive-by shootings as the basis for elevating a first-degree murder charge to aggravated murder in the first degree, which carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison.
Under current state laws, a drive-by shooting qualifies for an aggravated first degree murder charge. This class A felony comes with a mandatory penalty of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
Other aggravating circumstances that qualify for mandatory life sentence without parole include murder-for-hire, rape, kidnapping, and arson.
HB 1692 is retroactive if a drive-by shooting was the only aggravating factor in the first degree murder charge.
That means that anyone convicted or who plead guilty to first degree murder with a drive-by as the sole aggravating factor, “must be returned to the sentencing court or the sentencing court’s successor for entry of a conviction of murder in the first degree and sentencing according to the sentencing guidelines in effect on the date of the offense.”
House Bill 1692 was filed on Dec. 23 by Representatives Tarra Simmons, D-Bremerton, and David Hackney, D-Tukwila, ahead of the state’s 2022 60-day legislative session that begins Jan. 10.
Simmons’ office released a statement to KTTH arguing that first degree murder “is a heinous crime which already carries a long and serious sentence.” But, she added, “it’s clear that [this aggravated classification] was targeted at gangs that were predominately young and Black.” That, she argues is an example of “systemic racism.”