Law Easier On Hit & Run Drivers
DENVER (CBS4) – Each day lately it seems there’s news of a hit and run. A woman hit as she crossed the street in Stapleton. Her unborn child dies. A man hit and killed in Aurora. A valet hit and killed as he worked to buy his fiancé a birthday gift.
The number of hit and runs in Colorado is staggering.
“Our office will do the follow-up on approximately 400 hit and runs a month,” said detective sergeant Mike Farr, day shift supervisor in Denver’s Traffic Investigations Bureau. “That’s just the City and County of Denver. And those are just the ones that present leads that allow us to follow-up.”
Without a lead, police have nowhere to start. Many people who’ve been hit in minor crashes just take it to their insurance companies and have to forget about going after the driver who hit and ran.
The reasons, said Farr, are varied.
“The one that usually comes to the top of the list that you wonder about is that involvement of alcohol,” said Farr.
There are more reasons though in a crime that usually doesn’t carry intent.
“Then there are other folks who think they have a warrant, perhaps they do not. They lack proper driver’s license, they lack insurance paperwork,” said Farr.
With so many crashes, public anger is rising. In 2008, then state legislator Cheri Jahn helped write a new law that toughened the penalty for a hit and run in which someone died. It passed. The penalty is now as tough for a hit and run resulting in death as it is for a DUI resulting in death.
Lawmakers could go no further in making the law tougher. Jahn, now a state senator from Wheat Ridge, said they looked at raising the penalty for a hit and run causing severe bodily injury to the same level as that for a DUI with similar results.
“Oh I definitely think the laws should be tougher when there’s a hit and run and there’s serious bodily injury,” said Jahn, a Democrat. She believes there’s strong bipartisan support for the legislation. But it’s not getting done and it’s not likely to this year.
It costs $40,000 to lockup someone for a year in a state prison. Make the law tougher and allow for up to five years for a hit and run with bodily injury and a state estimate indicated it would cost $2.5 million more to house the offenders.
Jump to 2011, with state lawmakers looking at a budget shortfall as high at $1.3 billion in Colorado. Cuts to prisons are likely. Additional sentences are not.
“We’re going to have to cut a lot of things as it is,” said Jahn. “It’s very difficult for us to come in and say, but we want to add this into legislation and put this into policy.”
Don’t look for a change in the law that lets people flee and face a tougher penalty. At least not this year.