Car Accident Attorney
One case making headlines has shed light on the many examples of hit-and-run drivers in fatal accidents who are not receiving jail sentences as a result of their actions (https://abcnews.go.com/US/hit-run-drivers-kill-people-jail-time-rarely/story?id=61845988).
In December 2016, 29-year-old Kevin Ozoria of New York City struck and killed Jean Paul Guerrero, a local DJ for a popular station in the area. He did not turn himself into the police until days later, and he was not placed under formal arrest until almost a year later.
According to ABC News, Ozoria was charged with leaving a fatal accident, which carried a sentence of up to seven years in prison, and he was also charged with tampering because he attempted to have his damaged car repaired at an auto shop. He’s now expected to only serve five years of probation after admitting his role in the fatal accident.
Unfortunately, a lack of jail time for hit-and-run drivers involved in fatal accidents is not uncommon. Many in the legal and advocacy communities are aggravated by the prevalence of plea deals in these types of cases. In fact, in Ozoria’s case, he was first offered a plea deal that included jail time, but he turned it down. Then, he was presented with another deal that removed the jail time and added court conditions, which included 100 hours of community service and five years of probation. He can, however, be sentenced with the maximum term if he fails to adhere to the plea terms.
In the State of New York, Senator Patrick Gallivan is working on closing the loophole that is allowing for what many feel are softer sentences in fatal hit-and-runs. He is currently the sponsor of a bill in the state’s legislature that would strengthen the punishment for hit-and-run offenses. It would also add a public alert system to help get the public more involved in stopping hit-and-run accidents.
Hit-and-run alert systems were first introduced in the country in 2014 in Colorado, with the Medina Alert. This works like the Amber Alert and was named after hit-and-run victim Jose Medina, whose killer was found and arrested after a witness who saw the incident followed the driver and alerted police. The City of Los Angeles started a similar alert system in 2015.
In 48 states, hit-and-run accident penalties for those cases involving death or serious injury vary widely, ranging from community service to jail time. In the State of California, a driver in a fatal hit-and-run accident can be facing up to four years in jail. However, the outcomes of cases there vary, with some drivers receiving jail time while others end up with probation. Lawmakers in that state have also recently proposed a bill to make the penalties for hit-and-run drivers involving deaths more severe.
Washington, D.C. and Alaska do not currently have a specific law for fatal hit-and-run drivers.