Kansas House Bill 2044, which toughens penalties for hit-and-run, has been approved by the legislature, and now moves on to the Governor for his signature.
Here’s how Kansas.com describes the bill:
The hit-and-run bill, House Bill 2044, increases the penalty for leaving the scene of an accident.
The bill, which passed 112-12, would make it a felony, with presumptive prison time, for a driver to leave the scene of an accident that involves a fatality or major injuries. It would be a misdemeanor to leave the scene of an accident involving only property damage or minor injuries.
With the toughening of penalties for DUI in recent years, drunken motorists can get a lesser penalty — presumptive probation — if they flee the scene and can avoid law enforcement for a few hours until their blood-alcohol level drops, officials said.” [ read more ]
The bill had earlier passed the Kansas Senate, by a 38-0 vote.
Here is some additional information about the bill, from earlier in the year:
Family members of hit-and-run victims in Lawrence on Thursday urged legislators to increase penalties against drivers who flee the scene of an accident.
Ryan Crum, whose father, Thomas Crum, was killed in a hit-and-run accident in 2008, said, “There are unfortunately people in this world who can live with leaving someone on the side of the road to suffer and to ultimately die.”
Jeffrey Stolz, whose sister-in-law Rachel Leek was hit and killed in 2009 while riding her bike, said, “Unfortunately, it is becoming common knowledge in Kansas that fleeing the scene prevents law enforcement from acquiring the necessary evidence required to prove intoxication as the cause of the accident.”
And Michael Kanost, whose son Ryan Kanost was killed in 2006 while a student at Kansas University, said the current laws “provide an incentive (for) drunk drivers to leave the scene of an accident.”
In fact, state law, which now presumes probation for hit-and-run, encourages motorists in drunken driving crashes to leave the scene, said Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson.
“Drivers know if they are under the influence and they hit something or someone, they can avoid more serious charges by fleeing the accident scene instead of stopping and giving assistance or rendering aid,” Branson testified. “If a driver is capable of delaying their contact with law enforcement, it lessens their chances of being held responsible for their actions. Alcohol and drugs dissipate from the offender’s system, making breath and blood tests useless in prosecution.”
House Democratic Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence said, “There is a deficiency in Kansas law here. Right now in Kansas, a drunk driver can operate a vehicle, kill an individual through reckless driving, flee the scene of an accident and not do one single day of prison time.” [ read more ]
Rachel Leek was struck by a car in October 2009 and left to die on the street, while her killer drove home and sobered up, only turning himself in later. He ultimately pleaded guilty to a felony charge of leaving the scene of an accident involving a death and to a misdemeanor charge of driving while intoxicated. He was able to escape more severe charges because police were unable to prove that he was drunk at the time of the collision, though he later admitted it as a condition of his plea agreement. He was sentenced to 6 months in jail and 1 year of probation.
Here is the relevant text of the statute:
K.S.A. 2010 Supp. 8-1602 is hereby amended to read as follows: 8-1602.
(a) The driver of any vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury to, great bodily harm to or death of any person or damage to any attended vehicle or property shall immediately stop such vehicle at the scene of such accident, or as close thereto as possible, but shall then immediately return to and in every event shall remain at the scene of the accident until the driver has fulfilled the requirements of K.S.A. 8-1604, and amendments thereto.
(b) A person who violates subsection (a) when an accident results in:
(1) Total property damages of less than $1,000 shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, shall be punished as provided in K.S.A. 8-2116, and amendments thereto.
(2) Injury to any person or total property damages in excess of $1,000 or more shall be guilty of a class A person misdemeanor.
(3) Great bodily harm to any person shall be guilty of a severity level 8, person felony.
(4) The death of any person shall be guilty of a severity level 6, person felony, except as provided in subsection (5).
(5) The death of any person, if the person knew or reasonably should have known that such accident resulted in injury or death, shall be a level 5, person felony.