Some call language in bill vague; 'police need a bright line'

By STEVE BROWN

Capital Press

OLYMPIA -- Senate Bill 5570 would carve out an exception to the Washington state law that allows vehicles to be impounded when the driver is arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs or for driving with an invalid license.

The exception would apply to a vehicle transporting agricultural products from farm to market or transporting supplies to be used on another farm.

Sen. Jim Honeyford, R-Sunnyside, the prime sponsor of the bill, described the bill's intent during a hearing by the Senate Agriculture and Rural Economic Development Committee. Many perishable crops have a lifetime of 12 hours or less, he said. The bill would give the registered owner of the vehicle the opportunity to get an alternative driver so the crop wouldn't be lost.

Stu Halsan, from the Towing Recovery Association of Washington, said the bill's language has a few problems. He said it does not define farm vehicles or supplies.

"It could be a passenger vehicle with fresh produce. Supplies could be a saddle. It's not clarified," Halsan said. "The ammunition in my glove compartment, I'd call that farm supplies."

He also asked what happens if the driver is the owner and who drives the vehicle to a place of safety.

"We want good policy," he said. "The police need a bright line."

Halsan said a possible threshold for defining a farm vehicle is 16,000 pounds gross vehicle weight, which applies to a commercial vehicle required to stop at a scale.

"It's a good issue to bring up," he said. "It's a complicated one."

Halsan offered to work with committee staffers to refine the language in the bill.

Online

For information on the status and text of this or other bills in the Washington Legislature, go to http://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo

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