For at least one victim, it may be a case of locking the barn door after the horse is gone, but for others it could offer an outcome of reasonableness and a semblance of justice.
We’re talking about House Bill 2043, which would allow prosecutors to seek stronger penalties against drunken drivers involved in some injury accidents. Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson testified in favor of the legislation last week.
Branson should get credit for being a stand-up guy. He was taken to task by the father of a Kansas University student; the son lost his legs as a result of being struck by a vehicle driven by a person whose blood-alcohol level was three times the legal limit. The father was unhappy that Branson’s office filed only a drunken-driving charge against the driver.
At the time, and again before the Legislature, Branson said prosecutors are hamstrung by a Kansas Supreme Court decision that limits their ability to bring a more serious charge of aggravated battery in such cases. Prosecutors, he said, are required to present additional evidence of reckless behavior in order to bring charges of battery.
“We are able to charge a DUI driver with manslaughter if they kill someone but if they merely injure someone, the simple DUI charge is all that is available to prosecutors, creating an absurd and unjust result,” the district attorney told legislators.
The legislation could make the circumstances in the Lawrence situation a felony offense.
At a time when some bills filed in the state Senate and House seem illogically reactive and sometimes even silly, this legislation appears to address circumstances that could not have been foreseen when the original law was enacted.
Let’s hope this measure does not get lost in some legislative shuffle before the 2013 session ends. That would seem to be equally absurd and unjust.