Nebraska Bill Proposes Harsher Penalties for DUI-Related Fetal Deaths

In Omaha, Nebraska, a mother delivered a heart-wrenching testimony in front of state senators about losing her daughter and unborn grandchild in an accident involving a drunk driver in 2022. The guilty driver, Zach Paulison, was intoxicated and drove at over 102 miles per hour, killing Sara Zimmerman, her unborn son, Brooks, and her close friend, Amanda Schook, in March.

On Thursday, Sara’s mother, Darla Bengtson, relived the agonizing loss during her testimony. Bengtson urged lawmakers to increase the penalty for causing the death of an unborn child, such as her grandson Brooks, to be as severe as for causing death of an adult, like her daughter Sara.

A proposed law, LB974, aims to increase the maximum sentence for killing an unborn child from three to twenty years in incidents of vehicular homicide involving drunk driving. Senator Rick Holdcroft, who proposed the bill, and Deputy Douglas County Attorney Ryan Lindberg pointed out the inconsistency in current law in which the penalty for killing an unborn child is distinctly lesser than other fatal crimes.

The present law is unique in that for other fatal crimes in Nebraska, the penalty remains the same whether the victim is unborn or not; but not in case of motor vehicular homicide when the driver is proved to be drunk.

Bengtson expressed her wish to have the bill named “Brooks’ bill”, hoping some positivity could emerge out of her tragic loss. On the final day of committee hearings, Senator Holdcroft urged fellow senators for expedited consideration of this proposal for debate in the current legislative session.

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