Legislature(2003 - 2004)
04/07/2003 01:31 PM JUD
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 53-REVOKE DRIVER'S LIC. FOR FATAL ACCIDENT CHAIR RALPH SEEKINS called the Senate Judiciary Standing Committee meeting to order at 1:31 p.m. Present were Senators Therriault, French and Chair Seekins. Senator Ellis arrived shortly thereafter. He announced SB 53 to be up for consideration. MS. KAREN SAWYER, Staff to Senator Ogan, sponsor of SB 53, explained that this relates to circumstances where there is a true link between violating a traffic law and contributing to the death of someone. It allows courts to revoke an individual's license to drive if they caused someone's death. Page 2, lines 11 - 12 allows the court the discretion of revoking the license for up to three years. Notwithstanding, SB 53 proposes that a person could get a limited license for the entire period if he or she convinces the court that their livelihood depends on having a license. SENATOR ELLIS arrived at 1:35 p.m. SENATOR THERRIAULT clarified that current law already revokes the license of someone who is drinking and has a traffic violation. SENATOR FRENCH asked if this action would require a district court trial. MS. SAWYER replied that it would. She understood that whenever there is a death of an individual, that person has the right to a jury trial. SENATOR FRENCH said that this has more to do with taking away a driver's license, because as it stands now, you could kill someone in an accident and you might only be cited for negligent driving. You could sign the ticket, send in your fine, never appear in court and not lose your license and that's what this bill proposes to address. SENATOR THERRIAULT asked why the current point system doesn't allow this to be done. MS. ANNE CARPENETI, Criminal Division, Department of Law, said the infractions they are talking about wouldn't cost enough points to justify a loss of license, unless it was negligent driving on top of prior bad driving citations. SENATOR THERRIAULT asked why they couldn't change the point system. MS. CARPENETI replied no thought has been given to revising the point system. The purpose is to make a direct connection between a traffic violation that kills someone and loss of a license by a more direct route than the point system. SENATOR SEEKINS asked if the more indirect route involving the point system requires a jury trial. MS. CARPENETI replied, "Yes, whenever there is a possibility of loss of a valuable license like a driver's license, a person has the right to a jury trial and court appointed counsel." SENATOR FRENCH asked if that is correct, because you don't have the right to a trial for a speeding ticket and speeding points can cause you to loose your license. SENATOR THERRIAULT asked if using "may" on page 2 reflected the intent to see that a mother that picks up her children from soccer and hits some black ice and accidentally kills one of them loses her license in addition to the life of her child. MS. SAWYER replied this bill gives the court the right to look at the circumstance surrounding the accident. The person's driving record and the violation would have significance. MS. NANCY CAMPBELL said she and her husband lost their son in an auto accident in 1994. He was hit head-on by a man that swerved around a car that was turning. Six people were involved in the accident and six lawyers represented the six different insurance companies. One lawyer tried to get a misdemeanor and she and her husband went to traffic court to testify, but state law tied the judge's hands. Other people have talked to them about similar experiences with the system's shortfalls. The driver got a slap on the wrist and 300 hours of community service; he didn't lose his license and was subsequently involved in another accident in which two more people were killed. "As far as I know, he is still driving at this point." SENATOR FRENCH said he would like to have a discussion regarding adding "serious physical injury" to the statute. CHAIR SEEKINS said okay and that they would hold another hearing on it.