Legislature(2003 - 2004)

04/07/2003 01:31 PM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= 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.                                                                                                                          

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