Hit-And-Run Loophole Lets You Walk After 3 Years; Mike Gatto Wants That Fixed
In the wake of Simone Wilson's excellent LA Weekly coverage of the city's hit-and-run crisis, including the revelation that nearly half of all vehicle collisions in town involve people who flee the scene, an L.A.-based state lawmaker wants to do something about it.
State Assemblyman Mike Gatto, who represents such northeast communities as Atwater Village, East Hollywood, Los Feliz, and Silver Lake, says he'll propose closing a loophole that allows hit-and-run suspects to avoid prosecution after three years. You see, ...
... under current law, the window for prosecuting a hit-and-run suspect runs out three years after the date of the incident, Gatto spokesman Justin Hager explained to us.
Critics say that might be one of the reasons people flee: If they can ride it out for three years they are, as Hager put it, scot-free. Some folks might even turn themselves in or boast about such a collision after three years, he noted, knowing they would face few consequences.
Courtesy Marie Hardwick X-ray image from a hit-and-run victim in L.A.
Under language Gatto's office is working on, people could be prosecuted based on the time they are actually identified as suspects, giving authorities a fresh, three-year clock for possible prosecution.
Gatto told us:
I read the ongoing coverage in the LA Weekly. There's clearly something the legislature can do here. There's a real problem. The solution isn't fancy. It's just a matter of making it harder for people to run down the clock.
Gatto said he identified with our follow-up story about how bicyclist Don Ward was struck by a hit-and-run driver in Echo Park in 2009 and lived to hunt down the suspect.
The bicyclist that got hit -- that's the route I take home. You put yourself in that person's shoes.
The first deadline to file the proposed amendment this legislative session in Sacramento is Jan. 25 -- a deadline Gatto's folks said they would meet.