Sac'to Bill To Toughen Penalties On Hit-Run Drivers Blocked By Ass'y Approps Committee Chair Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher
|(May 22, 2021, 5:35 a.m.) -- AB 582, a bill by Assemblman Jim Patterson (R, Fresno), joined by NLB-area Assemblyman Mike Gipson (D, NLB/Compton/Carson), that would have increased and broadened penalties in hit-run incidents, was blocked from an Assembly floor vote for the rest of 2021 by Assembly Committee chair Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher (D, San Diego).
The bill would have increased the scope of hit/runs to include not immediately stopping after an incident, increased maximum prison sentences for fatal hit/runs from 4 years to 6 years and put an added penalty on drivers who hit/run while drunk. It was introduced on February 11, 2021 and its Assembly authors included Assemblman Eduardo Garcia (D, Salton Sea) and its co-authors included Assemblymembers Arambula, Gallagher, Gray, Lackey, Mathis Mathis, and Seyarto with Senate co-authors Bates and Borgeas
In April, AB 582 passed the Assembly Public Safety Committee (7-1: Yes: Bauer-Kahan, Jones-Sawyer, Lackey, Quirk, Santiago, Seyarto, Wicks; No: Lee) and was placed on the Assembly Appropriations Committee "suspense file." That effectively gave Appropriations Committee chair Gonzales Fletcher the power to hold the bill in her committee and prevent it from reaching the Assembly floor for the rest of 2021, which she did.
AB 582 could be taken up in January 2022 although it's not immediately clear if the author will do so. If it again fails to advance it will be the third year in a row the bill (in similar forms) has failed passage in Sac'to's Democrat majority state legislature.
The City of Long Beach, which has been the site of multiple hit/run collisions and fatalities, took no position on the bill. The LB City Council's "Public Safety Committee" (chaired since early Feb. 2021 by Councilwoman Suely Saro) never discussed the AB 582 and no Council incumbents agendized it for a Council vote.
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A legislative analysis by the Assembly Public Safety Committee (April 2021) listed registered support/opposition as follows:
The Assembly Public Safety Committee's legislative analysis included a statement by the author as follows in pertinent part:
Last year, this Public Safety Committee realized that there is currently a perverse loophole in the law, that inadvertently encourages drivers to flee the scene of an accident -- particularly if they are under the influence -- rather than stay at the scene to render aid or call 911...Often, drivers who leave the scene of an accident do so because they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time and fear the consequences. To deter drivers from leaving the scene, AB 582 will increase the possible penalty for hit-and-runs resulting in great bodily injury or death. By bringing this code more into line with the penalties assessed for vehicular manslaughter and making them greater than a DUI sentence, AB 582 will encourage drivers to stay at the scene of a crime, even if they may be under the influence, as opposed to fleeing the scene. This will help ensure that justice is served in a timely and appropriate manner."
In arguments pro/con, the legislative analysis stated:
Argument in Support: According to the Streets Are For Everyone, "AB 582 is named after Gavin Gladding, a beloved Clovis Unified School District Vice Principal who was tragically killed in a hit-and-run incident in 2018. Currently, the penalty for an individual who leaves the scene of a vehicle accident resulting in permanent serious injury or death is a maximum of four years and/or a fine of $1,000-$10,000.
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