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Senator Farnese Hears Testimony at Hit-and-Run Hearing
On March 11, 2010
Senator’s Bills Would Stiffen Penalties for Hit and Run Convictions
Philadelphia, March 11, 2010 — State Senator Larry Farnese today heard testimony from families, law enforcement and victims advocates at a public hearing about the devastating effects of hit-and-run crashes. The Senator is prime sponsor of two bills that would stiffen the penalties and increase the length of sentences for those convicted of fatal hit-and-run crashes.
“We must stiffen the penalties for drivers who hit people with their cars and then flee the scene with no regard for the victim. Very often the offender gets a light sentence while the families of the victims suffer a lifetime of pain.”
Senate Bill 1267 upgrades all instances of fatal hit-and-run violations to a felony. Currently some violations are misdemeanors. This change is important because felonies carry stiffer penalties, and a felony conviction has a much more serious and lasting impact on one’s life than does a misdemeanor conviction. In addition to increased prison terms, fines have been substantially increased or for the first time required.
Senate Bill 1268 sets precedent by adding a charge of aggravated assault by vehicle, a felony of the third degree, which characterizes a car as a deadly weapon. This is important because it characterizes these crashes as intentional actions instead of ‘just accidents.’
The District Attorney’s Office supports both bills.
The committee heard emotional testimony from Theresa Sautter, whose daughter Marylee Otto was killed in 2008 by a hit-and-run driver and from Dolores Roberto, whose son Peter Jr., 12, was killed by a hit-and-run driver on Thanksgiving Day 2004.
“I commend these mothers for their courage to tell their stories,” said Senator Farnese. The least we can do for them and their families is to create laws that would provide some comfort to them through achieving justice.”
Also testifying were Dr. Bryce Templeton, national board member of MADD and chair of the southeastern MADD affiliate; Lt. Anthony Silvo, Patrol section commander, Troop K, Pennsylvania State Police; Capt. Michael Murphy, commanding officer of the Accident Investigation Division, Philadelphia Police Department and Assistant District Attorney Michael Barry, Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office Homicide Unit.
“The first duty of government is to protect its citizens,” said Senator Farnese. “One way to ensure public safety is to make sure that defendants are properly sentenced. I am committed to advocating for victims of these crimes by strengthening these laws.”