Governor Vetoes One of Four Hit-and-Run Bills; Deadline for Others: Today

hit and run
Glendale Police released a video showing a woman being struck by a car in a hit-and-run last week.

Governor Jerry Brown vetoed one of four hit-and-run bills passed by the California Senate and Assembly. A.B. 2337, by Assemblymember Eric Linder (R-Corona), would have increased the automatic driver’s license suspension for a hit-and-run conviction from one to two years.

Despite near unanimous support in both houses of the legislature, Brown vetoed the bill on Thursday, writing in his veto message [PDF], “While I consider hit-and-run collisions to be very significant events, current penalties seem to be at appropriate levels.”

A.B. 2337 was one of four bills addressing the issue of hit-and-run crimes that the legislature passed this year; the other three have neither been signed nor vetoed as of this morning. Today is the deadline for the governor to sign bills from the current session.

Assemblymember Linder’s bill “would’ve given some real teeth to current hit-and-run penalties,” wrote Damian Kevitt in response to the veto. Kevitt was seriously injured in 2013 in a hit-and-run collision. Since his crash he has been actively involved in campaigning for better laws and better enforcement of hit-and-runs through his organization, Finish the Ride–which was originally named after his personal goal of completing the ride he started on the day he was hit.

The driver of the car that dragged him on the freeway, broke multiple bones, and caused him to lose a leg has never been caught.

“The current penalties for hit and runs are scaled based on severity of injury of the hit, not the fact of having made a conscious decision to run from the scene in the first place. This makes about as much sense as penalizing someone for DUI based on their blood alcohol level instead of for … having made that moral choice to recklessly drive drunk in the first place,” wrote Kevitt.

Drivers involved in hit and runs often act out of fear of being prosecuted not just for the collision but also for something else, such as driving without a license or driving under the influence. Kevitt points out that, “if they’re ever caught, usually the penalties … are mitigated to save legal time and money, meaning perpetrators can in some cases get off with only a fine and no felony record — not exactly what I would call proper justice.”

“I’d like to give Governor Brown the benefit of the doubt and hope that [his staff has] severely underplayed the epidemic of hit and runs occurring throughout the state,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, Kevitt’s organization, Finish the Ride, is working with the California Bicycle Coalition, LACBC, and “other like-minded organizations,” to “galvanize a maelstrom of well-informed citizens” to convince the governor to sign the other hit-and-run bills on his desk:

  • A.B. 1532, from Mike Gatto (D-Los Angeles): would require an automatic six-month license suspension for anyone convicted of a hit-and-run collision in which a person was hit, whether that person is injured or not.
  • A.B. 47, also from Gatto: would allow law enforcement authorities to use existing alert systems to broadcast information about vehicles suspected of being involved in a hit-and-run collision, to help catch perpetrators.
  • A.B. 2673, from Assemblymember Steven Bradford (D-Gardena), would remove the possibility of a civil compromise in the case of a hit-and-run conviction.

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12 thoughts on Governor Vetoes One of Four Hit-and-Run Bills; Deadline for Others: Today

  1. All of the unsigned bills eliminate the way rich people “get out” of hit-and-run cases. It’s hardly surprising that we won’t be eliminating their loopholes.

  2. As I understand it, the veto message stated that the bill was unnecessary because suspension penalties were already available as conditions of probation or parole. That suggests it was a “bill’s unnecessary” veto, not a “I oppose the policy” veto.

  3. The bill sought to increase the length of time a driver’s license is
    suspended for a hit-and-run. Some people, including the governor, may think that one year’s suspension is enough, which that would make this bill “unnecessary.” California lawmakers obviously disagreed about that. Some of us think even a two years’ suspension isn’t enough.

  4. The governor’s argument was that courts can already, as a condition of parole or probation, require that the person not drive (I think in CA parole/probation conditions can last up to the full length of parole or probation, which may be longer than two years). Was he wrong to say that?

  5. Ah – looking at the bill, the point was to make the revocation mandatory rather than a matter of judicial discretion. Never mind.

  6. The difference is between what the courts can do vs. what they are required to do. As jennix below points out, there are many loopholes for people with expensive lawyers.

  7. Since the vast majority of hit & run crimes go unsolved… it seems to me that we, as safety advocates, would better use our collective energy pushing the police to actually do their jobs and catch the criminals. Instead, we have people like Roadblock tracking down his own attacker — with no help from LAPD and thousands of unsolved cases sitting idle. Once we’ve reduced the chance of getting away with it, there would be less incentive to run (since you’ll get caught anyway) — and then, perhaps, I’ll be interested in talking about increasing penalties…

  8. Sickening. What a damn shame that just perpetuates that anachronistic and absurd principle of 20th century urban design, that pedestrians and cyclists are 2nd class citizens whose safety is second to the convenience (and mythological “right to drive”) of motorists. This governor is as out of touch as one can get when it comes to moving away from car-centric urban design.

  9. Jerry Brown used to be progressive. (In the seventies, he was ultra progressive.) He used to be a strong environmentalist. In theory he’s a Buddhist. In theory he believes both Democrats and Republicans are part of a corrupt two-party system. In practice these days he seems only faintly acquainted with environmental issues and fairly enamored with the status quo. I’m not voting for him again.

  10. This is an excellent point. Higher penalties for hit-and-run will only work if the perpetrators are caught. But the idea was that by making the penalties for leaving the scene of a crash egregious people might think twice before doing it. The Yellow Alert bill, also vetoed (see Tuesday’s Streetsblog story) was particularly promising, as it would have given law enforcement one more tool to find criminals who hit people and then try to hide.

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