Sunday, April 10, 2011

Final Push for a Bill to Toughen Maryland's Vehicular Manslaughter Laws

Maryland House Bill 363 is due for a vote in Annapolis on Monday, and the bicycling community--and families who've lost loved ones on Maryland's roads to vehicular manslaughter--are engaged in a last minute push to convince lawmakers to pass the bill. 

Ed Kohls, whose son Connor was killed by a man who paid a $1,200 dollar traffic ticket and was able to keep driving, is keeping a close eye on Maryland's House Bill 363, "Manslaughter by Vehicle or Vessel". This is the bill that passed the House and got hung up in the Senate over concerns it might be applied to broadly. It allows for a possible 3 year jail term and a fine, but the crime would still be a misdemeanor. 

Delegate Luiz Simmons has been the lead on the bill, calling Maryland's current vehicular manslaughter laws "cosmically absurd". In an e-mail sent on the eve of the vote, he wrote to WTOP "We are making furious efforts to save the bill and get past second and third reader and over to the House before midnight." Simmons is not new to the fight to toughen laws on vehicular manslaughter--he's been pushing the legislation for seven years now. 

Kohl, whose son was killed in 2008, has twice offered personal testimony--heard in WTOP's coverage of the bill-- about the grief he and his wife experienced, and their outrage over the fact that after killing their son, the driver was fined, only to continue driving and end up with a DUI conviction in a different case. He writes in an email to WTOP "My wife and I lost the love of our lives and must live out our life sentence every day."

While lawmakers, including Senator Brian Frosh, Chair of the Senate Judiciary Proceedings Committee, have expressed reservations about the law, Kohls insists that it's reasonable, and the language closes a loophole that lets drivers with the most egregious records get away with a traffic ticket.

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