Fresno

Gavin’s Law hits Assembly vote to close hit-and-run loophole

A law aiming to close a key loophole for drivers who flee hit-and-run accidents that seriously injure or kill people will see a major committee vote in California’s State Assembly on Tuesday.

The vote comes one week after Rogelio Alvarez Maravilla, the 19-year-old whose hit-and-run killed 43-year-old Clovis Unified vice principal Gavin Gladding, was released from prison early.

Maravilla hit Gladding with his truck early in the morning of Sept. 16, 2018 while driving on Friant Road. Gladding suffered fatal head injuries as a result of the accident.

The 18-year-old and his girlfriend, a passenger, left the scene and had his truck repaired the following morning with the help of a relative. Five days after the fatal crash, Maravilla turned himself into authorities.

He was sentenced to three years imprisonment, but served one.

The accident and light sentencing sparked Asm. Jim Patterson (R–Fresno) to craft the bill – dubbed “Gavin’s Law” to increase the penalties for hit-and-run drivers.

The bill was reviewed by the Assembly Public Safety Committee last March and faced a near-certain, bitter defeat at the hands of Assembly Democrats.

That is, until Gladding’s widow – Susan – delivered an empowered and emotional plea for support of the bill.

Her testimony forced Committee Chair Reggie Jones-Sawyer (D–South Los Angeles) to table the bill and push members of his party to collaborate with Patterson to address some concerns in the language.

Since last March, Patterson added two Democratic co-sponsors to the bill: Asms. Eduardo Garcia (D–Coachella) and Mike Gipson (D–Carson), a former Maywood police officer.

Many drivers flee hit-and-run accidents because they are driving under the influence and could face an additional charge of felony driving under the influence if apprehended while still intoxicated.

Currently, California’s penal code sets the maximum penalty for a fatal hit-and-run accident at four years imprisonment. Gavin’s Law increases the maximum penalty to six years.

Alex Tavlian
Alex Tavlian is the Executive Editor of The San Joaquin Valley Sun and Executive Director of Valley Future Foundation. You can reach Alex at alex.tavlian@sjvsun.com.