HELENA – The House Judiciary Committee is revisiting a bill that passed both the Montana House and Senate in 2009, only to be vetoed by Governor Brian Schweitzer. House Bill 18 would allow juveniles involved in deadly DUI accidents to be charged as adults.
Rebecca Sturdevant of Mothers Against Drunk Driving says, “The dead victim and the families don’t get a do-over so why should the juvenile? If the criminal is charged as a juvenile it’s a do-over.”
State Representative Janna Taylor’s says she is sponsoring the bill because Montana takes DUI seriously. Minors currently charged with vehicular homicide can be tried as adults for negligent homicide which carries a less severe maximum prison sentence. She says, “We don’t charge kidnapping for burglary – we don’t charge arson for theft, the crime needs to match the crime.”
Supporters such as Montana Highway Patrol Chief Col. Mike Tooley says if 16 year old make adult decisions to drink, they should face adult consequences.
Opponents say transferring juveniles to the adult justice system could do the opposite when trying to deter them from future criminal behavior. Montana ACLU spokeswoman Niki Zupanic says, “Those who were tried and charged in an adult system were nationwide, 34% more likely to commit crimes then those that remained in the juvenile system.”
But, supporters say the bill’s proposed changes would have a minimal effect. They estimate it would affect only 5 cases a year on average. Later this week, the joint House and Senate Judiciary Committee will hear 17 DUI related bills. ###