A bill that would increase penalties for fatal hit-and-runs will go before the Assembly Public Safety Committee this week.
AB 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.
Assemblyman Patterson created the bill after the death of Clovis resident and vice principal Gavin Gladding in 2018. Gladding was struck and killed by 19-year-old Rogelio Alvarez Maravilla, driving a truck. Maravilla subsequently fled, but turned himself in 5 days later after extensive media coverage and a growing police investigation.
Despite overwhelming evidence, Maravilla was given 14 months in jail. An outcry from Gladding’s widow and the community eventually reached lawmakers.
Last year the bill was nearly defeated in the Public Safety Committee vote. However Gladding’s widow, Susan Gladding, spoke in front of the committee on the injustice.
“The way that the California law is written today, it incentivizes the driver to flee the scene rather than to stop and assist the individual that they have critically injured with their vehicle,” said Susan Gladding in front of the committee last year.
Opposing lawmakers immediately went to work amending the bill over some concerns, then immediately unanimously passed it in committee.
The sudden change of heart was remarked upon as a very rare occurrence.
“It was like something out of a movie, giving a speech like that and changing a vote,” stated ‘Dana’, a worker in the state capitol. “I remember having to call a few people because I couldn’t believe an impassioned speech changed the course of a bill like that.”
Assembly members, including author Assemblyman Patterson, were surprised.
“In all my time in this building, I have never seen the testimony of a witness change the hearts and minds of a committee in an instant,” wrote Assemblyman Patterson in a statement. “Susan Gladding’s testimony was powerful and it’s the reason why this bill is moving forward today.”
Reconsideration put the bill on hold for ten months, which in that time has brought along bipartisan support and fine-tuning of AB 582, which is also now known by the nickname “Gavin’s Law.” Support of the bill has also been given by many Clovis-area establishments, police organizations, and numerous anti-drunk driving groups.
AB 582 will be voted on this week, and if approved, will be moved up to a full Assembly vote later this year.