Assemblyman Allan Mansoor (R-Costa Mesa) Introduced Assembly Bill 956 on Feb. 22 following a suggestion by a constituent and longtime patient of Campion-Ritz, who was outraged by the maximum eight-year sentence Michael Jason Lopez is facing in connection for the doctor's death.
Under the current law, someone who flees after committing a grossly negligent vehicular manslaughter faces an additional five years in state prison for fleeing the scene.
According to Mansoor's office, under AB 956 suspects in vehicular manslaughter cases that don't involve gross negligence ― cases such as the crash that killed Campion-Ritz, would also face those extra five years.
“This important bill will discourage individuals from fleeing the scene after a hit- and-run," Mansoor told Patch. "I understand that accidents can and will occur, but I also believe in providing judges additional discretionary use of sentencing for those who run from the responsibility of remaining at the scene of the crime.”
April Morris, who has worked to improve bicycle safety by helping raise money for Newport Beach's bike safety fund, says AB 956 resonates strongly with the community.
"I believe the proposed AB 956, adding up to five more years of incarceration on those who are convicted of hit and run offenses, is overdue," Morris said. "If enacted, it should be a wake up call to anyone who is convicted of a hit-and-run offense."
On the morning of Saturday, Sept. 15 Campion-Ritz, an Irvine resident and Newport Beach doctor for close to 30 years, was riding her bicycle on Newport Coast Drive with her husband. Prosecutors allege Lopez, 39, of Anaheim, fled the scene after he crashed into the back of Campion-Ritz, throwing her from her bike onto the street.
Lopez was arrested a few days later. He pleaded not-guilty to one felony count of hit-and-run causing death, and one misdemeanor count of vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence with a sentencing enhancement for a prior strike conviction for residential burglary in 1993, according to the D.A.'s office. If convicted, Lopez faces a maximum sentence of eight years in state prison.
Anyone wishing to lend support for AB 956, can visit Mansoor's web site at republican.assembly.ca.gov, or via mail to Assemblyman Allan R. Mansoor, P.O. Box 942849, Sacramento, CA 94249-0074.
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