Friday, January 25, 2013

PRESS RELEASE: Assemblyman Mike Gatto Bill Makes it Harder for Hit and Run Drivers to Evade Arrest

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                            Contact:  Justin Hager (818) 558-3043
January 25, 2013                                                                        Cell (415) 889-9762

Assemblyman Mike Gatto Bill Makes it Harder for Hit and Run Drivers to Evade Arrest
Sacramento, CA – Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D-43) introduced legislation today to help curb the epidemic of hit-and-run offenses in Southern California.  Currently, motorists who flee the scene of an accident can simply "run down the clock" to avoid any liability whatsoever.  If a motorist is not identified (which is often very difficult) within three years, the motorist cannot be prosecuted.  Gatto's bill extends the statute of limitations for such offenses to three years from the date of the offense, or one year after the suspect is identified by law enforcement, whichever is later.  The Legislature has passed similar changes to statutes of limitations for crimes with hard-to-identify perpetrators, like clergy abuse.

Eric Bruins, Planning & Policy Director for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, noted that bicyclists and pedestrians are particularly vulnerable to hit-and-run collisions that result in death or serious bodily injury.  “It's hard for us to encourage people to bike and walk when our streets are treated like the Wild West,” said Bruins.  “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.”

“Many hit-and-run victims suffer very serious injuries, often because they are unable to dial 9-1-1, and, of course, because the person fleeing the scene does not.  Allowing hit-and-run criminals to avoid prosecution just adds insult to these injuries,” said Gatto. 

An investigation by the LA Weekly found about 20,000 hit-and-run crashes are recorded annually by the Los Angeles Police Department.  These 20,000 incidents made up an astonishing 48 percent of all vehicle crashes in 2009, compared to an average rate of just 11 percent nationwide.  State data shows that 4,000 hit-and-run incidents a year in Los Angeles lead to injury or death.  Unfortunately, most of these incidents are never prosecuted, in part, because of the statute of limitations running out.

“This is a relatively easy and sensible fix to the law, so that people who would otherwise hit-and-run realize that they will be prosecuted, no matter how long it takes."

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

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  1. This article does not make sense: "If a motorist is not identified (which is often very difficult) within three years, the motorist cannot be prosecuted. Gatto's bill extends the statute of limitations for such offenses to three years..." So, the limit is now 3 years and his bill makes it 3 years. What's up???

    1. Thank you for your comment and for visiting the news blog for Assemblyman Mike Gatto. Current law sets the statute of limitations at a firm 3 years from the date of the hit-and-run, without exception. This bill would keep the 3 year general statute of limitations, but would also allow for prosecution for up to one year after the perpetrator is identified, even if this falls beyond the three year general limit.

      For example, if a hit and run occurred in 2007, under current law, the perpetrator could never be prosecuted for the that crime after 2010. Under Assemblyman Gatto's proposed legislation, if evidence came to light in 2012 that identified the perpetrator, they could still be prosecuted for up to one year after the date they were initially identified.

      If you are looking for a specific instance in which this bill might have made a difference, you can look up information on Josh Lacy. He was 15 year old hit-and-run victim in 2007. The person who hit him received assistance from two friends in order to cover up the crime for more than three years. By the time the investigators were able to solidify the evidence against the perpetrators, the statute had run on many of the charges.

      Please feel free to contact the office at 818-558-3043 with any questions or concerns you may have. Thank you again!