Lawmakers seek stiffer penalties in vehicular homicides - WSMV Channel 4

Lawmakers seek stiffer penalties in vehicular homicides

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

State lawmakers are hoping to get tough on drunk drivers who kill innocent people. The problem is, there is also a pricetag.

Just last week, police say Rebecca Benson drank and drove the wrong way down Interstate 65 before colliding into and killing Steffanie Leonard, who was on her way to work.

Lawmakers say too many times people are drinking or taking drugs and then killing innocent people behind the wheel.

Yet, the penalty for vehicular homicide is only 3 to 15 years.

"No one made them get high on crack or meth. No one made them drink and drive. They did it on their own, and they need to be held very accountable for that," said Rep. Eric Watson, R-Cleveland.

Watson heard about the case of Dustin Ledford, who was killed by a drunk driver with a .24 blood alcohol content.

He says he wants to make it easier to charge drivers who have a very high blood alcohol content, or who mix alcohol and meth, with aggravated vehicular homicide.

The penalty is much steeper at between 15 and 60 years in prison.

The problem, though, is money.

It will cost approximately $665,000 a year to keep those drunk drivers behind bars.

Watson says he met with Gov. Bill Haslam last week, and there is a good chance this bill become a law if not this year, then next year.

"If somebody's willing to drink and drive, or take drugs and drive, and kill somebody, they need to pay for that with a severe penalty," Watson said.

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