A 16-year-old Tukwila boy could face a sentencing range of about seven to 19 months in jail if convicted as charged in the vehicular homicide death in Kent of a 13-year-old girl in his car and injuries to two other people in another vehicle.
King County prosecutors charged the boy Thursday in Juvenile Court with vehicular homicide, two counts of vehicular assault and felony hit and run. The teen is scheduled to be arraigned on July 26 in Juvenile Courtroom 3 in King County Superior Court in Seattle.
“His charges don’t automatically make him eligible for adult Superior Court,” said a spokesman for the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office when asked why the case is in Juvenile Court. “If convicted, he would serve on each count consecutively, for an approximate total of 30 to 72 weeks plus an additional 0 to 60 days.”
Vehicle homicide sentences have increased in recent years for adults. The sentencing range is six to eight years after a previous guideline of 21 to 27 months. Other offenses committed as part of the same crime and criminal history can add additional time to a sentence.
The teen allegedly drove a 2018 Nissan Altima that crashed head-on into a Mazda Protege on the night of June 30 in the 9700 block of Canyon Drive. The boy ran from the car. Kent Police arrested him two days later. Sabrina Ali died from smoke inhalation in the backseat of the Nissan. Firefighters found her deceased after extinguishing the car fire.
The Legislature in 2018 adopted a new law that restricts when an offender who commits a serious violent offense is automatically charged in adult court if they are 16 or 17 years old when the crime occurred. Murder, rape and aggravated assault still result in moving a case to adult court. Crimes such as first-degree robbery, first-degree burglary (with a prior offense) and drive-by-shooting are no longer are part of the list of crimes for moving a case to adult court.
According to a 2018 Seattle Times story about the change in law to reduce the number of juveniles sent to adult court, “Since 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court has handed down a trio of rulings based on neuroscience that’s proven adolescent brains aren’t fully developed until age 25 — and as a result, juveniles are considered less culpable than adults for criminal behavior. Science also has shown that adolescents possess a greater propensity for change and rehabilitation compared to adults.”
The article quoted King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg about the change.
“Sending a young person into adult prison is a very serious decision that can have lifelong implications,” Satterberg said. “In 20 years, we’ve learned a lot about the science of cognitive development and now it’s informing our case law and our practice.”