For the third time in three years, a bill that would broaden the definition of hit-and-run incidents and increase prison sentences for those causing fatalities passed the Assembly Public Safety Committee.
Assembly Bill 582, authored by Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R–Fresno), would increase the scope of hit-and-runs to include penalties for not immediately stopping after an incident, and expands the maximum prison sentence for fatalities from 4 years to 6 years. Drivers who hit-and-run while drunk will also face an additional penalty.
AB 582 is also known as “Gavin’s Law,” named by Patterson for Clovis resident and vice principal Gavin Gladding. Gladding was struck and killed in 2018 by 19-year-old Rogelio Alvarez Maravilla, who was driving a truck. Maravilla subsequently fled, but turned himself in 5 days later after extensive media coverage and an expanding investigation by police. Despite overwhelming evidence, Maravilla was given 14 months in jail.
The story peaked the interest of Assemblyman Patterson and he has tried repeatedly to pass the bill. However, his attempts in 2019 and 2020 fizzled out despite bipartisan support due to a wide variety of factors including a focus on COVID-19 related bills last year.
This year, AB 582 continues to have sizable support, as evidenced by lawmakers passing the bill in committee earlier this week 7-1, as well as police and anti-drunk driving groups continuing to back the bill.
“Gavin’s Law was approved in the Assembly Public Safety Committee with overwhelming support,” said Assemblyman Patterson in a Facebook post on Tuesday. “We’re beginning this long journey again and may still face some obstacles. But with testimony from families like the Gladdings and the Oseguedas, we have reason to be optimistic.”
On Thursday, he added in another post “Why do we need Gavin’s Law? Because there is an imbalance of justice in the law. Because it’s time for California to care more about the victims and the families they leave behind than the criminals who don’t have the human decency to stay.”
Those who have lost family members and friends to hit and runs have been the most vocal supporters of the bill, and through impassioned speeches in front of committees, have even won over lawmakers who generally oppose giving higher jail sentences to criminals.
“It can be a hard thing for getting people to see it from your point of view,” explained Christa West, who lost her brother to a hit and run incident in 2012, to the Globe. “Not many people know the kind of sudden loss you went through. Widowers understand, and those killed in various other collisions, like drunk driving, do too. No one really knows what that loss feels like except those who have gone through it.”
“That California bill, the people they’re choosing to talk about it and asking for tougher sentences, it’s really convincing and paints a vivid picture. Not many people can illustrate it that well. Hopefully it effects enough people.”
No known opposition has been formed against the bill as of Thursday.
AB 582 is expected to be heard next in the Assembly Appropriations Committee later this month.
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