LOS ANGELES, Calif. /California Newswire/ — Calif. Assemblyman Mike Gatto’s (D-Los Angeles) bill to address the epidemic of hit-and-run offenses in California cleared its final legislative hurdle today, passing the Assembly by a 68-0 vote. The Senate passed the same legislation yesterday by a vote of 37-0. The legislation, AB 184, provides an additional tool to law-enforcement officers investigating hit-and-run offenses by extending the current three-year statute of limitations for such offenses to six years from the date of the offense.
“AB 184 will allow victims of hit-and-runs and law enforcement to obtain justice from cowards who do everything possible to avoid responsibility for their actions,” said Gatto. “Thousands of hit-and-run victims suffer life-threatening injuries annually. Allowing the perpetrators to avoid prosecution just adds insult to these injuries.”
The legislature’s decision comes just days after yet another deadly series of hit-and-runs in California. In the past three weeks, incidents took the lives of seven people in the City of Los Angeles and another five in Los Angeles and Orange Counties. Victims include a 3-year-old, several college students, and two elderly men. In the Sacramento region, recent hit-and-runs have taken the lives of two people, and a 70-year-old motorcyclist and his wife narrowly escaped last weekend after being rear-ended. And in San Jose, Bipin Patel was killed by a hit-and-run driver while riding his bicycle to work, leaving his wife and three children without answers about the person responsible for Patel’s death.
“We wish no harm to the person who did this, we just hope they can accept responsibility and bring us some closure,” Patel’s daughter Chandni told NBC Bay Area.
In addition to the recent deaths, many older hit-and-runs around the state remain unsolved, even after months of investigation. Damian Kevitt was struck by a mini-van while on his bicycle in February and dragged more than a quarter-mile down the Interstate 5 freeway in Los Angeles. The collision resulted in dozens of broken bones and the amputation of one of Kevitt’s legs. Kevitt recently began learning how to pedal a bicycle with his new prosthetic leg, while the suspect who hit him remains at large.
“It’s hard for us to encourage people to bike and walk, when our streets are treated like the Wild West,” said Eric Bruins, Planning & Policy Director for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition. “The LA County Bicycle Coalition commends Assemblyman Gatto for bringing attention to this issue and giving hit-and-run victims hope that their perpetrators might be brought to justice once identified.”
Currently, motorists who flee the scene of an accident can simply “run out the clock” and avoid all criminal liability for seriously injuring or even killing another individual in a hit-and-run. AB 184 provides a significant boost to law-enforcement officers investigating hit-and-run offenses. The Legislature has passed similar changes to statutes of limitations for crimes with hard-to-identify perpetrators, like clergy abuse.
“Accident victims deserve justice,” said Gatto. “And society, speaking through our institutions, needs to make clear that we won’t countenance the diminution in values that has led to the recent plague in hit-and-run accidents.”
AB 184 now goes to the desk of Governor Jerry Brown for final approval.
Mike Gatto is the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee in the California State Assembly. He represents Burbank, Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge, La Crescenta, Montrose, and the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Atwater Village, East Hollywood, Franklin Hills, Hollywood Hills, Los Feliz, and Silver Lake. www.asm.ca.gov/gatto