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Archive for Friday, January 14, 2011

Legislators, district attorney unveil legislation to stiffen penalties for those who flee the scene of a fatality accident

Ryan Crum, whose father, Thomas Crum, died in a hit-and-run accident in 2008, talks about the current punishments for drunk drivers who flee the scene of a fatality accident and are caught later.

January 14, 2011

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After hearing from victims’ family members, Kansas lawmakers have introduced a bill that would make those who leave the scene of a fatality hit-and-run crash face prison time.

The bill would increase the punishment for the crime to up to 32 months in prison.

Charles Branson, Douglas County district attorney, said that one of the hardest things he has to do is explain to families of victims why the law doesn’t allow defendants to be held accountable for their crimes.

“We have a problem in Kansas with DUIs and people circumventing DUI laws,” Branson said.

And in many of these hit-and-run cases, that’s exactly what’s happening, he said. Defendants are leaving the scene, and often turning themselves in the next day to rob the state of evidence in a DUI case. As it stands today, someone who leaves the scene of a fatality crash would likely face only probation.

“I think everyone knows it’s the right thing to do, to stay at the scene of an accident, and at least call the authorities for help,” said Jeff Stolz, whose sister-in-law, Rachel Leek, died in a hit-and-run accident in October 2009.

Leek was riding her bicycle, just south of 10th and Tennessee streets, when she was hit and left unconscious.

State Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, and state Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, said at a Friday press conference that they supported the legislation.

Davis said he introduced it after he heard from families who had been affected by the law, and saw defendants get off with lighter sentences than they deserved.

“As folks in Lawrence and Douglas County are well aware, we’ve had a couple of terrible tragedies in the last couple years,” Davis said.

Leaving the scene of a fatality accident would increase from a level nine person felony to a level five person felony. The severity of the punishment for the charge of leaving the scene of an accident that caused great bodily harm would also increase under the bill, as the charge would increase from a level 10 to a level eight person felony.

Davis expressed optimism that the bill would become law, and hearings for the bill will be scheduled soon.

“I’ll be ecstatic if it happens,” said Ryan Crum, who has also fought for the changes in the law since his father, Thomas Crum, was killed in a hit-and-run accident in May 2008. “Basically, what I wanted to do was force people to do what’s right.”

Comments

Pywacket 3 years, 11 months ago

This is a step in the right direction. Going with the theory that most of those fleeing are drunk and don't want stiff penalties for that, the punishment for fleeing needs to be higher than for impaired driving.

That way, when they weigh the two choices, facing the music will make more sense to a callous jerk who, obviously, is too cowardly and heartless to stay on the scene simply because it's the right thing to do.

none2 3 years, 11 months ago

I think my feeling is that if they flee the scene, then it should be seen as both attempted murder (or murder if anybody dies) & fleeing the scene. You may not be able to chemically prove they were drunk if they wait a couple of days, but you may be able to prove they knowingly left the scene. (Oh sure, we here of cases where someone claims they never knew they hit anything. I always found those stories hard to believe.)

Ron Holzwarth 3 years, 11 months ago

"claims they never knew they hit anything"

If you're drunk enough, I think that's possible.

lllwll 3 years, 11 months ago

9 to 5...

10 to 8

OK!

They will run..

Jimo 3 years, 11 months ago

I don't believe you read this correctly. 30 months is for fleeing the scene. Whether the person is criminally culpable for the death is an entirely different crime with an entirely different sentencing scheme.

jhawkinsf 3 years, 11 months ago

Leaving the scene should incur significant financial losses ($50,000). Home, car, etc. should be lost. If you cannot pay, then community service for years. Loss of drivers license should be for years at a minimum. People could be hurt and as a human being, you have a responsibility to help. This is just for leaving, obviously, if DUI or if people are hurt or killed, then there would be additional consequences.

seriouscat 3 years, 10 months ago

I am happy to see long overdue tightening of drunk driving laws. But I wonder....is there anything we can do or is anyone exploring how we might be able to reverse the rise of alcoholism in our society? All these measure are really just bandaids for the huge gaping wound of widespread addiction.

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