By Julie Watts

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Records show penalties are often more severe for DUI drivers who are arrested at the scene of a crash, compared to those who leave.

AB 582, dubbed Gavin’s Law in honor of a beloved California vice principal who was killed by a hit-and-run DUI driver while jogging, intends to change how DUI suspects are sentenced.

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The law was intended to make penalties for leaving the scene of a deadly crash worse than if the suspect stayed, but the bill has been significantly watered down since it was first introduced.

Gavin Gladding’s wife, Susan, lobbied for the law last year at the Capitol. The DUI driver who hit her husband made a u-turn and drove off, leaving him to die. Court documents show Gavin was alive when the suspect left.

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The 18-year-old driver was sentenced to three years in jail but only served one.

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Currently, a hit-and-run causing serious injury or death is considered a “wobbler.” The District Attorney can choose to charge as a felony or a misdemeanor, with a maximum of four years in state prison.

The original bill in Gavin’s honor would have made hit-and-run an automatic felony with a maximum of six years for causing serious injury and eight years for causing death. But the bill was opposed by the ACLU and public defenders, citing prison overcrowding and people leaving the scene for reasons other than avoiding liability such as fear of losing a job, deportation, lack of insurance or unpaid tickets.

The bill was amended and reintroduced, keeping the crime a wobbler with no increase in prison time for serious injury and only increasing the maximum sentence to six years for a hit-and-run resulting in death.

Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) authored the bill. Patterson’s office said they had to amend the bill to get it passed and say they worked closely with co-authors and Gavin’s family, who believe the bill will still help families and hit-and-run victims.

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The bill is set to be heard in the Senate Public Safety Committee in April.

Julie Watts