Fresno

Assembly committee kills “Gavin’s Law” seeking to stiffen penalties for hit-and-run drivers

A bill championed by two Valley families after the death of relatives at the hands of hit-and-run drivers died in the Legislature after failing to muster sufficient support in the California Assembly Appropriations Committee on Thursday.

Gavin’s Law, a bill first introduced by Asm. Jim Patterson (R–Fresno) in 2019, sought to increase penalties for hit-and-run accidents that result in death from four years to six.

The change was driven by the fact that DUI drivers who leave the scene have time to sober up before being caught and avoid a 15-year sentence for felony DUI charges. AB 582 would slightly close the gap in penalties. 

The law is named after former Clovis Unified vice principal Gavin Gladding who was killed in a hit-and-run accident on Sep. 16, 2018 while on an early-morning jog on Friant Road. 

Then 18-year-old Rogelio Alvarez Maravilla hit Gladding with his truck and fled the scene. He turned himself in five days later. 

Maravilla was sentenced to three years in prison and was released after 13 months. 

Gladding’s wife Susan gave an impassioned testimony to the Assembly Public Safety Committee in the first go-around in 2019, which pushed many opposing Democrats to support the bill. 

In early April, Gladding’s mother Rita testified to the committee, along with Mike Osegueda, a former longtime sports writer for Yahoo Sports who goes by Mike Oz and lives in the Fresno area. 

Osegueda’s sister Courtney was killed in a hit-and-run crash in Oakland in February. The Oakland Police Department have identified the driver but have not made an arrest yet. 

Gavin’s Law was presented on Thursday as part of the Appropriations Committee’s suspense file. Bills in the file are presented in rapid-fire succession with a determination of whether they will be passed or amended prior – enabling a floor vote of the full Assembly – or if they will be held in committee or on suspense.

Either of the latter renders the bill dead for the legislative year.

“Gavin, the Gladding family and those who have worked so hard to pass Gavin’s Law, were seeking justice,” Patterson said in a statement. “What happened today was an injustice heaped upon their heartache.”

Patterson, clearly upset at the back-to-back failures to get the bill toward passage to stiffen penalties, cast the blame on the ruling majority in Sacramento.

“It has never been more clear that the ruling party in Sacramento cares more about criminals than they do about victims. They demonstrate that every time they are in session these days. This is what the victims of crime can expect unless there is a change in Sacramento.”

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.