Bill Seeks To Prosecute Young Impaired Drivers For Vehicular Homicide

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(Helena, MT-Jackie Yamanaka, Yellowstone Public Radio) – Montana legislators are considering a bill that would allow teenagers charged with vehicular homicide while driving under the influence to be prosecuted as an adult.

House Bill 18 is sponsored by Republican Representative Janna Taylor of Dayton.

“In Montana,” she says, “we need to name the crime correctly because in Montana we take DUI seriously.”

Montana's state house (photo by Jackie Yamanaka)

In two recent cases involving then-17-year olds, both were prosecuted as negligent homicide rather than vehicular homicide.  Prosecutors say there is a difference in sentencing. Negligent homicide carries a 20 year maximum prison sentence; vehicular homicide is 30 years.

But prosecutors say the real difference is court-ordered and supervised treatment that carries over when the offender becomes an adult if the youth is prosecuted as an adult.

Mark Murphy represents the Montana County Attorneys Association.

“In these cases, the most serious that we deal with,” he says, “there is a dead victim in this case. Although we want to reform the youth, we also want to protect the community.”

The House Judiciary Committee did not immediately vote on House Bill 18.

Wednesday and Thursday (Jan 29-30, 2011) the Joint House and Senate Judiciary Committees will hold hearings on nearly 20 bills that address the issue of driving under the influence.

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