Bill to increase penalty for hit-and-run passes state senate

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Updated: 4/04/2013 4:18 am

A bill that would increase the penalty for some convicted hit-and-run drivers has cleared a big hurdle in the state legislature.

Lubbock has dozens of open hit and run cases. Just last July, a passerby discovered Armando Saenz, 41, on Clovis Road. He died a short time later. Since his death, there have been few leads and no suspect.

LPD Sergeant Robert Hook said any resource that helps decrease these kinds of cases is beneficial.

The Texas Senate unanimously voted to pass Senate Bill 275 that makes leaving the scene of an accident causing death a second degree felony, the same as intoxication manslaughter.

"It makes things substantially worse when people are involved in a traffic accident and flee the scene. It's always better to stay and make sure everybody gets some kind of medical attention and then wait for law enforcement," Hook said. "So, when we have these situations, I would at first glance, be hopeful that the higher charge, and publicizing the fact that it's a higher charge would decrease the number of these incidents that we have."

Democratic State Senator Kirk Watson of Austin proposed the bill.

He said one when someone dies as a result from a hit and run, it carries the same punishment as when someone is injured.

He believes it is a fundamentally different event when someone is left for dead.

"My hope is that what will happen is that the incentive, or disincentive- whatever you want to call it- about fleeing the scene goes away and what will happen is people will stay and make the phone call to 911, they'll render aid, and in doing so," said Watson, "they'll get someone there to help somebody so that maybe it'll save their lives. The goal is to save lives." 

The hit-and-run bill is headed to the House.

Watson said he is hopeful that the bill will pass there too.

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