ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – One group says it will lobby for stronger penalties for people convicted of careless driving that resulted in death or great bodily harm. Currently, careless driving has a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail.
This follows the trial of a former Albuquerque Police sergeant who was charged with vehicular homicide.
Prosecutors argued Adam Casaus was driving recklessly when he ran a red light at Paseo Del Norte and Eagle Ranch in Feb. 2013, hitting the vehicle Ashley Browder was riding in. Browder, 21, was killed in the crash.
A jury found Casaus not guilty of vehicular homicide, going with the lesser charge of careless driving. It slashed the possible maximum time he could spend behind bars.
A few weeks ago, a jury also found Anthony Ramos guilty of careless driving instead of vehicular homicide. Police said Ramos was drag racing when he hit and killed Tara Garcia in 2012.
“We’ve been looking at this for many years now,” said Diane Albert with the Bicycle Coalition of New Mexico. “It happens so frequently in New Mexico that people get killed on the roadway and there aren’t any consequences.”
Albert said the group intends to lobby this year to strengthen maximum penalties for cases of careless driving that result in death or great bodily harm. She said they believe tougher penalties could deter dangerous driving.
“I was looking for a deterrence, where the penalty would actually deter someone from getting behind the wheel and being careless,” said John Ryan, a Republican state senator representing the metro area.
Ryan sponsored a bill in 2013 to strengthen penalties for careless driving. He said the bill died in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which is comprised largely of attorneys.
“There’s a fair amount of support for it, but when people bring up questions specific to a certain situation where somebody just happens to be careless, should we be putting a bigger increased penalty on somebody that just was not paying attention?” Ryan asked.
Albert said they’re hoping people will contact their legislators in support of strengthening penalties in cases of careless driving resulting in death, to hopefully push legislation through this year.
Following the Casaus verdict, the District Attorney’s office issued a statement saying they hope this will “draw attention to the need to address the law” and potential penalties in similar cases.