DUI Accidents: Why Should The Same Punishment Fit Two Different Crimes?

Authorities in one metro county are worried because they cannot understand why.

Already this year, more people have been killed or seriously injured by suspected impaired drivers in Douglas County than in the previous two years combined. Thirteen in 2015, compared to five in 2014 and four in 2014.

What bothers a lot of cops and victim's families: if someone gets drunk or high and causes serious injury in a car accident, the maximum sentence they face is 15 years. But if they wind up killing someone, the maximum sentence is exactly the same.

Jason Willis knew this all too well. He was waiting for his mother to meet him to watch his boys play soccer on Mother's Day this year. But she didn't show.

"My mom's always late," Willis said with a gentle smile.

Willis was certain his mom would show because Sandra Willis never missed an opportunity to be with her only two grandchildren.

But on the way to the boys' soccer game, authorities say a Pontiac Grand Ville crossed into the other lane completely and slammed into Sandra's car.

The Villa Rica woman died instantly. A friend in the car was seriously injured. Their car was unrecognizable. At first, Jason was told the other car had a tire blow out. But weeks later investigators shared the disturbing news: blood tests from the other driver allegedly showed evidence of "very recent marijuana use."

The FOX 5 I-Team was there when Douglas County deputies arrested 36-year-old Roderic Alexander after being indicted for vehicular homicide.

Randy Travis: How much marijuana did you smoke before you got behind the wheel?
Roderic Alexander: I didn't smoke any marijuana before I got behind the wheel.
Randy Travis: Were you under the influence of anything before this accident?
Roderic Alexander: No sir.
Randy Travis: What do you remember?
Roderic Alexander: That's all.
Randy Travis: Somebody died. You know that, right?
Roderic Alexander: I know that. I'm very sorry.

But these days grieving family members like Jason Willis all have the same question, a question of fairness.

"The damage is greater, so why shouldn't the penalty be greater?" he asked.

Consider Taylor Overeem. He's accused of getting drunk and wrecking his car, causing the serious injury of his girlfriend Anastasia Williams. If convicted, the most he can get is 15 years in prison.

Compare that to Marilyn Arnold. Investigators said she was under the influence of multiple pain medications when she crashed her minivan, killing a passenger Corey Hart. If convicted, the most she can get for his death is also 15 years in prison.

"There's no rhyme or reason to why those penalties would be the same when one family may be completely healed within a few minutes or a year, and one family's lost someone... forever," said Douglas County District Attorney Brian Fortner.

Fortner wants the General Assembly to raise the punishment for vehicular homicide, hoping that might convince others to stop driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. If a tougher punishment won't help, future drunk drivers might wind up facing the son of a woman listed as a vehicular homicide victim.

That would be Jason Willis. He's also a police officer.

"I'll definitely share my story and tell them why it hits home so much," said Willis. "And let them know how it affected me and how it changed my life. And they very well could affect someone else's life and changed their family's life. And let them know what I've experienced, what I've gone through. And my kids, what they've gone... nights where I've laid in bed holding my son crying because he missed his Nana. That's just... that's something you can't get over."