Backers of a new bill in Florida hope to prevent a repeat of the light sentence awarded to Michele Traverso, who left a father of two to die on the street yet will spend less than a year in jail.
On August 19 Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla (R-Miami) filed the “Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act” bill, upping the minimum jail sentences for leaving the scene of an accident to three years for an accident resulting in injury, seven years for serious bodily injury, and 10 years for a hit-and-run resulting in death.
The bill also requires that the driver have his or her license suspended for a minimum of three years and be required take a driver education course.
Traverso, 26, was sentenced to only 364 days in jail even though he was driving illegally and on probation for cocaine charges when he fatally struck Cohen on Miami's Rickenbacker Causeway in February 2012.
Traverso had been reportedly partying at a Coconut Grove bar until 6 a.m. before killing the cyclist on his way to his Key Biscayne condo, where he then hid his banged up car under a tarp.
He did not surrender to police for 18 hours, preventing the timely blood alcohol test needed to prove whether he was driving under the influence.
Ever since, Cohen's family and friends have been lobbying for stricter sentencing for hit-and-runs in Florida.
The Florida Highway Patrol recently released numbers showing that Miami-Dade had the most hit-and-runs in the state in 2012 -- a staggering 35 per day, that's almost 13,000 a year.
Many of the drivers are never found, but when they are convicted, sentencing is light as there is currently no minimum sentencing for leaving the scene of an accident in Florida.
A University of Miami student was recently sentenced to three years in jail for a DUI and fatal hit-and-run that killed a grandmother.
And a self-described "party princess" who was drunk when she fatally struck a South Beach chef crossing the street was recently sentenced to a meager four years behind bars.
According to the Aaron Cohen Law web site, a series of tragedies have fueled amendments making the state's original 1971 Leaving the Scene Of An Accident law tougher.
But as it's written, sentencing standards by Florida's current LSA law still "[create] an incentive for drunk drivers to flee the scene of an accident," according to The Sun Sentinel, who cite that almost 100 people have been killed in South Florida by hit-and-run drivers in the past two years.
See the history of Florida's LSA law below, as outlined by Aaron Cohen Law's site.
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