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Proposed legislation cracks down on hit-and-run felons

By Jake Reiner, Reporter, JakeReiner@kionrightnow.com
Published On: Mar 12 2014 09:02:00 PM CDT

Hit and run penalty legislation passes committee

SALINAS, Calif.- -

A new proposed law gets tougher on hit-and-run drivers.

A bill that just passed the public safety committee in the California assembly will affect the Central Coast greatly if signed into law, police said.

Vehicle versus pedestrian accidents are a huge problem in Salinas, hit-and-runs are even worse.

In Salinas last year police estimate a hit and run happened at least once a day. This new legislation, AB-1532, could suspend licenses of drivers who hit-and-run.

For Cesarea Magana it's like re-living a nightmare.

"The day they ran over my daughter, the lady somewhat stopped but then she left," Magana said. "How could she just leave and not help? How did she not see us crossing the street?"

It's been almost seven months since Magana's daughter survived bouncing off the hood of a white Honda. Salinas police are still searching for the suspect.

Under the bill introduced by State Assemblyman Mike Gatto, convicted hit-and-run felons would face a $1,000 fine, a suspended license for six months and jail time for even minor injuries.

"I think it does send a message," Salinas police Sgt. Gerard Ross said.

Last year alone, Salinas saw a record 12 fatal traffic accidents, seven of them were vehicle versus pedestrian.

The current law includes the fine but not the suspended license.

"The way the law is now sometimes they are better off running because there is not that much of a punishment to stay," Sgt. Ross said.

Veteran defense attorney Miguel Hernandez has had many hit-and-run clients. He's against the legislation because he says sometimes his clients don't even know if they've hit someone.

"It's a little bit far reaching but it's not too much different than the current law," Hernandez said. "It just gives the courts and prosecution a little bit more power to do things against people in general."

Magana says her nightmare will never go away, not while the woman who hit her 7-year-old daughter is still out there.

"It's not fair, because imagine how my daughters are, and she's out there like nothing ever happened," Magana said.