Sen. William A. Walaska (D-Dist. 30, Warwick) has introduced legislation to increase penalties for drivers leaving the scene of an accident that results in serious bodily injury or death.
“I think it’s outrageous that any driver would show so much disregard for another person that he would drive off after an accident,” Walaska said in a statement. “I know it happens. I also know that it is a selfish, cowardly thing to do and the penalties now in law are just not strong enough a punishment for the harm and mayhem done.”
Under current statute, individuals convicted a first time of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in bodily injury face between one and 10 years in prison, a fine of between $1,000 and $5,000 and license revocation of up to two years.
The Walaska bill, 2012-S 2139, calls for a mandatory minimum two-year revocation and a maximum five-year revocation of an operator’s license.
For a second or subsequent conviction of the same offense, existing penalties are two to 15 years in prison, a fine of between $3,000 and $10,000 and license revocation of up to four years.
The Walaska bill amends the license revocation period for a second or subsequent offense to a minimum of three years and a maximum of 10.
The legislation also would increase the revocation periods for those convicted of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death.
Under existing law, a first offense carries a penalty of two to 15 years in prison, a fine of between $5,000 and $10,000 and license revocation of three years. The Walaska bill calls for a minimum revocation of three years and a maximum of 10 years. For a second or subsequent offense, current penalties are five to 20 years, a fine of $10,000 to $20,000 and a license revocation of five years. The Walaska bill calls for a minimum revocation of five years and a maximum of 10 years.
“We need to send the strongest message possible and impose the strongest penalties possible for hit-and-run drivers who fail to stop and accept their responsibility for what they’ve done,” said Walaska. “I don’t believe the state should be in any great hurry to restore operating privileges and allow these individuals back on the road too soon.”
The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary.
Similar legislation has been introduced in the House of Representatives. That bill, 2012-H 7467, by Rep. Joy Hearn (D-Dist. 66, Barrington, East Providence), is before the House Committee on Judiciary.