Statute of Limitations Extended on Hit-and-Runs

Under the old law, violators needed to avoid capture for only three years.

The California State Capitol building. Photo/Daniel Mayer
The California State Capitol building. Photo/Daniel Mayer

By City News Service 

Following a spate of fatal hit-and-run crashes in the Southland, state lawmakers on Tuesday approved a bill extending the statute of limitations for such crimes from three years to six years.

In the last month, more than a dozen people were killed in hit-and-run collisions in Los Angeles and Orange counties, including seven victims in the city of Los Angeles, according to Assemblyman Mike Gatto, D-Los Angeles, who sponsored the legislation. Many others, including a three-year-old boy, were seriously injured by motorists who drove off after crashing into victims.

"AB 184 will allow victims of hit-and-runs and law enforcement to obtain justice from cowards who do everything possible to avoid responsibility for their actions," Gatto said.

Under current law, motorists who flee the scene of an accident can simply "run out the clock," as it can take months to track them down.

The identity of the driver of a mini-van who hit bicyclist Damian Kevitt and dragged him more than quarter-mile down Interstate 5 in Los Angeles in February remains unknown. One of Kevitt's legs had to be amputated and replaced by a prosthetic and he had dozens of broken bones.

"It's hard for us to encourage people to bike and walk when our streets are treated like the Wild West," said Eric Bruins, planning and policy director for the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition.

The assembly vote was 68-0 in favor of the bill, which the Senate passed earlier on a 37-0 vote.

The bill goes to Gov. Jerry Brown for final approval.   

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