Assemblyman Jim Patterson was joined Friday in a Fresno park by a horde of supporters who are standing behind his proposed bill to extend the penalty for drivers who flee accidents that cause injury or death.
It’s known as Gavin’s Law in honor of the Clovis educator killed last year in a hit-and-run crash. And it faces a key hearing Tuesday in the Assembly Public Safety Committee.
Patterson, R-Fresno, and his supporters argue that the bipartisan AB-582 will save lives and decrease hit-and-run crashes.
Clovis Unified School District vice principal Gavin Gladding was killed on a Sept. 16 morning run along Friant Road. Rogelio Alvarez Maravilla was driving with his girlfriend that morning when Maravilla struck Gladding. Court documents say Maravilla and his girlfriend were returning from a party.
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Instead of stopping and helping Gladding, Maravilla backed up, made a U-turn and dragged the truck’s headlights over Gladding’s body before leaving the scene, according to court documents.
Maravilla turned himself in five days after the crash. He pleaded no contest in court to hit-and-run and to three misdemeanors of vehicular manslaughter, driving without a license and destroying evidence. He was sentenced in November to three years in prison.
“What we are asking (legislators) to do is to end this perverse incentive that actually makes it a little bit easier, and you serve a little less time if you leave instead of if you stay,” Patterson said at a rally at Keith Tice Park near Clovis West High. “We want that to stop. We think this bill does it.”
The current law in California punishes a person with up to four years in prison if they leave the scene of a crash where someone has been seriously injured or killed.
Gavin’s Law proposes a punishment of up to six years in prison and a specified fine if a hit-and-run crash leads to permanent or serious injury. It proposes a prison punishment of up to eight years and a fine if a hit-and-run crash ends in death.
The bill was introduced Feb. 14 by Patterson and is co-authored by three Assembly members and two state senators including freshman Andreas Borgeas, R-Fresno, who attended Friday’s rally.
More than 8,500 petitions were submitted to the Assembly in support of the law, according to Patterson’s office. He said that several members of Gladding’s family, along with other supporters of the bill, are expected to speak in favor of the bill during Tuesday’s hearing.
Chief Dyer: ‘Critical law’
The bill has support from law enforcement including Fresno police Chief Jerry Dyer, who attended Friday’s rally and called the bill a “critical law.”
Citing Gladding’s death and lawmakers’ efforts, he quoted a spiritual verse: “What Satan intends for evil, God will use for good.”
Dyer said 40 percent of Fresno hit-and-run crashes in 2019 have not been solved. The added penalties proposed by Gavin’s Law, Dyer said, might serve as a deterrent to drivers leaving the scene of a crash.
Gladding’s wife Susan and their two children attended Friday’s rally. Gladding’s mother spoke about the moment she first heard about the crash on the morning it happened and how the loss of her son has affected the family. She said the bill would bring “a tiny bit of justice.”
Patterson said Public Safety Committee members have ideological differences that could make Tuesday’s hearing testy. But, he said, he won’t be deterred.
“We have our work cut out for us,” Patterson said. “Let’s hope that common sense and some rationality enters that committee.”
If the Public Safety Committee approves, the next step is hearing before the Appropriations Committee.