Emily Rice Published

Lawmakers Classify Unborn Child As Distinct Victim In DUI Causing Death

A man wearing a suit and yellow tie speaks into a microphone to a body of lawmakers.
Sen. Charles Trump, R-Morgan, explains House Bill 3302 on the Senate floor.
WV Legislative Photography/Will Price

House Bill 3302 changes West Virginia criminal code to recognize an unborn child as a distinct victim in a DUI causing death. It passed the Senate Monday with amendments. The bill now returns to the House for their agreement.

Senate Judiciary Chair Sen. Charles Trump, R-Morgan, explained the bill on the House floor.

“Any person who drives a vehicle in this state while he or she is in an impaired state and such impaired state proximately causes the death of any person is guilty of a felony,” Trump said. “And upon conviction thereof should be imprisoned in the State Correctional Facility, not less than three or more than 15 years, fined not less than $1,000 more than $3,000 or both, and have his or her licensed operator motor vehicles suspended for a period of 10 years.”

While DUI-causing death is already a crime in West Virginia code, this bill and its amendments will add the death of an unborn child to felony offenses.

“But what the amendment does is it makes the DUI death statute applicable to the death of an embryo or uterus, an embryo or fetus as authorized by 61230. That’s the other section, it’s amended. In other words, it treats a child in utero as a person for purposes of the DUI death statute,” he said. 

Trump described the legislation as filling a hole in West Virginia’s current laws surrounding intoxicated driving.

“We’ll say if you drive under the influence, and you cause a wreck, and you terminate a woman’s pregnancy, you kill a child in utero, you’re going to be treated under the law as if you had killed an adult who had been born or a child who had been born,” he said. “It will be a measure of justice going forward. For people who do that sort of reckless outrageous thing driving under the influence and maiming people on our highways.”