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Light sentence for Olympia drunk driver sparks outrage

Posted on May 22, 2014

A drunk driver in the Olympia, WA area was sentenced to one year of work release with no jail time for a dangerous police chase that occurred on December 29th, 2013. The man, Shaun Goodman, was driving drunk at speeds up to 100 miles per hour in his Ferrari. Goodman’s passenger begged him to slow down, but seeing that Goodman was not slowing down, the passenger ended up jumping from the vehicle when Goodman slowed briefly. The chase ended after Goodman crashed his Ferrari into a parked car and a house. Goodman was charged with felony eluding a police officer and DUI. His blood alcohol was measured at a .16, twice the threshold for drunken driving in Washington State.

This event was not the first on Goodman’s long history of driving infractions. Goodman was arrested on six separate occasions for DUI before that night. Two of these arrests were pleaded down to negligent driving.  Despite his high rate of recidivism, Goodman was released on bail and allowed to travel to the Super Bowl to watch the Seahawks. The only condition was that Goodman had to wear a monitoring device to verify that he did not drink during the event. In addition, Goodman’s sentence of a mere one year of work release is exceptionally light given his repeat offenses and the drastic nature of his crime.

This generous treatment for Goodman has triggered outrage in the Thurston County community. Protesters marched on the Thurston County courthouse on Friday, May 16th to make their concerns known regarding Goodman’s light sentence. The protesters claim that the rules for rich individuals are different when it comes to drunk driving. The reason given for Goodman’s light sentence was that Goodman was a prominent member of the business community and his business and employees would suffer if he were imprisoned. This ruling disregards the Washington DUI sentencing code, which mandates at least 120 days of imprisonment if the individual has 2 or more prior offenses and has a BAC of .15 or higher. The exception to this mandated sentence is if “the court finds that imposition of this mandatory minimum sentence would impose a substantial risk to the offender’s physical or mental well-being”. In this case, it seems clear that the judge considered Goodman’s business essential to his well-being.

This situation still does not answer why Goodman, with 6 prior DUI arrests, still had access to his license. After his second offense, Goodman’s license would have to be suspended for four years. However, a recent change to the RCW allows individuals with their license suspended due to DUI to continue using their vehicle if they install an ignition interlock device. The sentencing guidelines have also changed significantly over the last twenty years, so it is possible Goodman’s previous offenses occurred under a less strict code. Additionally, it is possible that Goodman’s earlier convictions were not within the 7-year window required in the RCW for an offense to be considered in sentencing. Ultimately, it seems that Goodman has received fairly light treatment given the letter of the law, but it is possible that all sentences carried out by the judge were within reasonable ranges of severity.

If you’ve been injured in a car crash as a result of a drunk driver, I encourage you to contact us to talk about how we can help you.