The Phoenix DUI Law Blog

'Joey's Law' Creates Harsher Penalties for Hit-and-Run Drivers

Back in 2010, high school senior Joey Romero was killed by a hit-and-run driver while walking home from his job at a dollar store. After the accident, Romero's family began pushing for increased penalties for hit-and-run drivers.

On Wednesday, Gov. Jan Brewer signed Senate Bill 1163 into law, The Arizona Republic reports. Under "Joey's Law," drivers who kill someone and then drive off could lose their licenses for a decade.

Romero was killed in October 2010, when 25-year-old Laura Flanders reportedly drove onto a sidewalk and hit him. According to authorities, Flanders was so incoherent from a prescription medicine that she thought she'd hit a pole, tree, or bush.

She was charged with one count of manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident. She pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Under Arizona law, a driver who leaves the scene of an accident resulting in death or serious physical injury is guilty of a Class 3 felony. If the driver was responsible for the accident, then he's guilty of a Class 2 felony.

Both offenses are punishable by jail time along with the suspension or revocation of driving privileges. Under the previous law, the offender's driver's license was suspended for up to three years if someone was injured, up to and five years if someone was killed. Those periods began while the perpetrator was in jail, and couldn't drive anyway.

Romero's family believed the penalties weren't enough. "To me, you hit a person and you leave them, you have no regard for human life," Jesse Romero, Joey's father, said.

Under the new law, convicted hit-and-run drivers will have a longer wait before they can get back behind the wheel. If someone is killed in the accident, drivers can now lose their license for up to 10 years. After five years, however, they can apply for a restrictive license.

If someone is seriously injured, the driver can now lose her license for up to five years. In addition, the suspension period doesn't begin until the perpetrator is released from prison.

The Romeros hope Flanders receives the maximum 10-year suspension. "I would like for her to be made the example of what the law really should be like," Jesse Romero said. "This law is because of her."

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