Video contributed by the Office of Assemblyman Jim Patterson
SACRAMENTO – After emotional testimony from the wife of a fatal hit-and-run victim, the Assembly Public Safety Committee voiced their support for closing the loophole in state law that actually benefits DUI drivers who leave the scene of a deadly crash.
Gavin’s Law (AB 582) was a bipartisan bill, introduced by Assemblyman Jim Patterson.
Five members of the committee abstained from voting on the bill, instead of voting ‘no’ as recommended by the Chair of the committee. Several members who admittedly were previously opposed to the bill spoke in support of closing the loophole and pledged to work with Assemblyman Patterson on making amendments to the bill.
“In all my time in this building, I have never seen the testimony of a witness change the hearts and minds of a committee in an instant,” Patterson said. “Susan Gladding’s testimony was powerful and it’s the reason why this bill is moving forward today.”
In a statement, the Gladding family said, “We are thankful the Assembly Public Safety Committee committed to closing the loophole that Gavin’s Law seeks to change. We are grateful for the leadership of Assembly member Patterson and the co-sponsors of A.B.582.”
Gavin Gladding was the inspiration for Gavin’s Law. A beloved husband, father and educator, Gavin was killed by a hit-and-run driver just six months ago. The driver was caught five days later. He was believed to have been drinking prior to the crash and worked to cover up the evidence. Because of California’s weak hit-and-run laws, the driver was given a three year sentence. He will only serve 18 months behind bars.
Law enforcement experts say hit-and-run drivers often leave the scene of an accident to avoid DUI charges. Under California law, the maximum punishment for a hit-and-run accident causing permanent, serious injuries or death is only four years behind bars. DUI drivers who flee and sober up before being caught can avoid the additional felony DUI charges if they’re ever caught.
As written AB 582 would have increased penalties for hit-and-run crashes resulting in great bodily injury or death to bring them in line with penalties for vehicular manslaughter. However, commitments from the committee to support the bill with changes will mean an amended bill will be heard by the Public Safety Committee in the near future for another vote.