CHARLESTON, WV (LOOTPRESS) – The House of Delegates convened Tuesday to discuss an assortment of bills and resolutions in an extended floor session. Several have already seen passage as sessions continue, including House Bill 3302 which recognizes unborn children as distinct victims in fatalities brought about by DUI (Driving Under the Influence.)
The bill, the lead sponsor of which is Delegate Westfall (R-Jackson, 016), has generated much support throughout the House, with supporting Delegates such as Burkhammer, Capito, Pinson, Steele, Kelly, Kump, Kimble, Martin, and C. Pritt adding their names as co-sponsors of the proposed legislation.
Filed for introduction earlier in the month on February 6, 2023, House Bill 3302 would amend and reenact §17C-5-2 of the Code of West Virginia to recognize an embryo or fetus as a distinct unborn victim for certain DUI offenses including DUI causing death and DUI causing serious bodily injury.
This would mean that drivers charged with injury or death while operating a vehicle while impaired would face additional charges should the incident bring injury or death to an unborn child being carried by a victim in the situation.
A number of Delegates spoke to the bill, with Delegate Pinson (R-Mason, 017) alluding to a grieving family from Jackson County who stand as only a few affected by the lack of accountability for those who make the decision to perpetuate potentially fatal situations by driving under the influence.
Delegate Westfall (R-Jackson, 016) made a few brief but emotional remarks regarding the legislation, taking party politics off the table in favor moral and ethical reasoning.
“This is not a Democrat bill or a Republican bill, this is the right thing to do,” Delegate Westfall asserted.
Delegate Kump (R-Berkeley, 094) was last to speak on the bill, and acknowledged a seemingly lax approach with regard to enforcement of the law in situations where death is brought about by mismanagement (intentional or otherwise) by the operation of a motor vehicle. Delegate Kump referred to his own professional history as a Case Manager at a high security prison out-of-state as having informed this disparity.
House Bill 3302 passed unanimously through the House upon its third reading Tuesday, with 97 Delegates voting in favor, 0 voting against, and 3 counted absent.
Additional Legislative coverage from LOOTPRESS can be found here.