Calif. Assemblyman Mike GattoSACRAMENTO, Calif. /California Newswire/ — Calif. Assemblyman Mike Gatto’s (D-Los Angeles) bill to address the epidemic of hit-and-run offenses in Southern California cleared a key legislative hurdle today, passing the Senate Public Safety Committee by a 7-0 vote. 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 three years from the date of the offense, or one year after a suspect is identified by law enforcement, whichever is later.

“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.”

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.

“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.”

Los Angeles’s problems with hit-and-run accidents have become notorious following a series of high-profile accidents in and around Gatto’s district. Just one month after Gatto introduced his legislation, Damien Kevitt was struck by a mini-van while riding his bicycle and dragged more than a quarter mile down Interstate 5. The collision resulted in dozens of broken bones and the amputation of one of Kevitt’s legs. The suspect remains at large.

“The Damien Kevitts of the world deserve justice,” said Gatto. “I hope my colleagues in the Senate will continue following the lead of the Assembly and take meaningful action to address the epidemic of hit-and-run offenses in Southern California.”

AB 184 now heads to the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration.

Mike Gatto is the Chairman of the Appropriations Committee of the California State Assembly. He represents the cities of Burbank, Glendale, La Cañada Flintridge, the Los Angeles neighborhoods of Los Feliz, Silver Lake, Atwater Village, and portions of the Hollywood Hills and East Hollywood.