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Vehicular Manslaughter Proposal

February 22, 1996
By: Conrad Jungmann
State Capital Bureau

Drunk driving is serious business in Missouri especially when it leads to vehicular homicide. A new law that would toughen up penalties for this crime has just sat down behind the wheel of the legislative process. Conrad Jungmann has that story from Jefferson City:

Story:Conrad Jungmann
RunTime:
OutCue: SOC

Under current law, a person who involuntarily kills someone while driving drunk can only be punished for a maximum of seven years. Representative Phil Smith, a democrat from Louisiana, Missouri says thats not enough. He has introduced a bill that would toughen the penalties for vehicular manslaughter:

Actuality:Smith
RunTime:
OutCue: ..penalty for it.
Contents: Smith says his bill would make the penalties stiffer for people who choose to drink and then kill and maim someone.

Senator Joe Moseley of Columbia says that if this bill passes, it will make the penalty for vehicular homicide just as strong as an intentional murder. He is concerned that this would lower the level of concern for intentional killings.

Actuality: Joe Moseley
RunTime:
OutCue: ...caused a fatality
Contents: Moseley says what do you say to someone who has had a family member stalked and killed intentionally, because they can get no more punishment than someone who was intoxicated and caused a fatality.

According to Ron Beck of the Missouri State Patrol, vehicular manslaughter is a growing problem, and is considered to be one of Missouri's deadliest crimes. There were over 36,000 drunk driving arrests in 1994, and 75 arrests for vehicular homicide. The statistics for 1995 have not yet been tallied. Weldon Wilhoit, also of the State Patrol agrees that drunk driving is a serious problem in Missouri and this bill might reduce fatalities:

Actuality:Weldon Wilhoit
RunTime:
OutCue: ...wheel of a motor vehicle
Contents: Wilhoit supports this bill and feels that it may act as a deterrent for people who choose to drink and then get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.

Don Carter, the program supervisor for chemical dependency services at Capital Region Medical Center agrees with increasing consequences for repeat offenders. But he doubts it will deter first time offenders:

Actuality: Don Carter
RunTime:
OutCue: ..thinking twice about it
Contents:

Several lobbyist groups including Missouri Mothers Against Drunk Drivers support the bill. Rich Eickles, state executive director for MADD says that vehicular homicide should be treated more severely:

Actuality:Rich Eickles
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OutCue:
Contents:

Representative Smith says he expects little opposition to this bill, but it still has a long way to go before it reaches the governor's desk for final approval. From the state capital. I'm Conrad Jungmann.