Assemblyman Mike Gatto’s (D-Burbank) bill to address the epidemic of hit-and-run offenses in California was signed into law by Governor Brown today. 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 Governor’s decision comes just days after yet another deadly week of hit-and-runs in California, including four hit-and-run victims in Gatto’s District. Two hit-and-runs last week in Glendale, left a 75 year old woman, a 59 year old woman, and a 73 year old woman in critical condition. Bookending the Glendale incidents were two fatal hit-and-runs. Last Friday, a 22 year old woman was killed by a hit-and-run driver in Hollywood and on Monday a hit-and-run left a 48-year old man dead in Encino. The hit-and-run epidemic is also spreading to other regions of the state. In the Sacramento region, a 55-year-old motorcyclist was killed on October 1 in a hit-and-run in Orangevale. And hit-and-runs in Oakland, Santa Rosa, Redwood City, and Atherton have left two Bay Area residents dead, and several more seriously injured, all since the beginning of October.
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.
“Hit-and-run offenders cannot be allowed to escape their actions without consequence,” said Gatto. “And hit-and-run victims deserve justice. I hope this law will help some of them to find it.”
The new law goes into effect January 1, 2014.