Proposed bill to increase penalty for hit-skip drivers clears Ohio House

The Columbus Dispatch had an article yesterday about Zanesville Rep. Brian Hill’s having introduced HB 397 last December in response to a hit-and-run accident in Guernsey County back in April of last year in which a 14-year old teenager was killed and another 15-year old critically injured. The suspect, who had an extensive criminal history that included previous driving and drug-related offenses, was later apprehended and sentenced to the maximum sentences ---- a 36 month sentence for Tampering with Evidence, a 36 month sentence for Leaving the Scene of an Accident. Both sentences are to be served consecutively. Nugent was also given a 180 day jail sentence for Vehicular Homicide, together with a fine of $150.00 for the Assured Clear Distance violation, according to the Guernsey County Prosecutor's Office press release.

Ohio averages 473 hit & run accidents a year in which people are killed or seriously injured, but few offenders are now sentenced for leaving the scene because they’re typically convicted of more serious charges such as aggravated vehicular homicide or assault, the article quoted the Highway Patrol and Legislative Service Commission as saying. Members of the House Judiciary Committee unanimously approved the recommendation Wednesday.

Under current law, failure to stop after an accident is normally a misdemeanor of the first degree. If the accident results in serious physical harm to a person, the offense is a felony of the fifth degree. If the accident results in death, the offense is a felony of the third degree. The bill would increase the penalty to a felony of the second degree in cases of serious physical harm to a person or death. (See ORC 4549.02 Stopping after accident on public roads or highways)

The bill would also increase the penalty for not stopping after an accident on any public or private property other than a public road in cases in which serious physical harm to a person or death results, increasing that penalty to a felony of the second degree in case of serious physical harm to a person or death where failing to stop where currently it is typically a misdemeanor of the first degree, unless the accident results in serious physical harm to a person which makes it a felony of the fifth degree or third degree if the accident results in death. (ORC 4549.021 Stopping after accident on other than public roads or highways)

Text of House Bill 397

Legislative Service's analysis