Family of Courtney Griffin testifies on new hit-and-run legislation
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Drivers who leave the scene of accidents are one step closer to facing stricter penalties.
The parents of Courtney Griffin, killed in May of 2011 by a driver who left the scene, testified before a Senate criminal justice committee Tuesday.
Since Griffin’s death, her family has been vocal in fighting to stiffen penalties for drivers convicted of leaving the scene of an accident. They say current laws encourage intoxicated drivers to flee and sober up because a charge of failure to stop and render aid is less severe than intoxication assault or manslaughter.
The driver who struck Griffin, Gabrielle Nestande, was found guilty of criminal negligent homicide, and was handed 10 years probation and a $10,000 dollar fine by a jury last month. She was not convicted of failure to stop and render aid.
In court, it was shown that Nestande had been drinking before the accident, but because she didn’t stick around after the crash, there were no blood alcohol measurements to prove her level of intoxication.
If this new law passes, the penalty for failure to stop and render aid following a fatal accident would be heightened from a third to a second degree felony.
"My sincere belief is that with this bill, more people will remain at the scene of a potentially fatal accident to call 911, and in turn, more lives will be saved," said the bill's author, Sen. Kirk Watson.
Courtney's mother, Laurie Griffin, said that while her daughter will never get justice in a courtroom, her death may help save the lives of others in the future.
Laurie Griffin has since filed a lawsuit against Gabrielle Nestande and Clive Bar, the bar where Nestande drank the night of the accident.
According to the Austin Police Department, there were 393 hit-and-run accidents in the city in 2012, 12 of which were fatal.