Austin House member signs on to bill to increase hit-and-run penalty

Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin (Texas House)

After a visit from the grieving parents of a high-profile hit-and-run victim, an Austin House member joined a growing list of state lawmakers looking to increase the penalty for this fatal crime. Weeks ago, Bart and Kelly Griffin reached out to Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin, in response to the death of their daughter, Courtney, according to the legislator’s office.

Griffin was killed on a West Austin street in the early morning hours of May 27, 2011. On Friday, a jury recommended 10 years probation for criminally negligent homicide for Gabrielle Nestande – the former Capitol staffer who was behind the wheel that early morning.

While in the drafting phase of his own legislation, Rep. Elliott Naishtat, D-Austin, signed on to an identical, existing proposal – House Bill 72 – filed in November by Rep. Allen Fletcher, R-Cyprus. The goal of the bill is to motivate people to stop and help victims of accidents.

HB 72 would increase the penalty for the offense of leaving the scene of an accident from a “third degree felony” to a “second degree felony.” That could mean a stricter penalty – the same as people convicted of sexual assault, robbery or manslaughter.

Second-degree 2 to 20 years in a state prison and/or a fine of not more than $10,000 Third-degree 2 to 10 years in a state prison and/or a fine of not more than $10,000

Another Austin Democrat, Sen. Kirk Watson, filed similar legislation – Senate Bill 275 – last month after speaking with Griffin’s father.

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