Gavin's Law hits road bump, but has second chance coming soon

Gavin Gladding was running off the side of Friant Road when an 18-year-old driver hit him, then left him to die.
CLOVIS, Calif. (KFSN) -- A bump popped up in the road Friday for the family trying to honor the Clovis vice principal left to die by the driver who killed him in 2018.

Gavin Gladding was running off the side of Friant Road when an 18-year-old driver hit him, then left him to die.

"From the moment the driver decided to leave the scene, his actions were entirely self serving and cowardly," said his widow Susan Gladding.

Investigators suspected the teenager was drinking in the hours before he hit Gladding, but they didn't catch him for five days, leading to a lighter punishment of three years in prison.

Right now, a conviction for vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated means a sentence of 4, 6, or 10 years.

A conviction for hit and run causing death means 2, 3, or 4 years.

So even if he gets caught later, leaving the scene of the crime can save a drunk driver years in prison.

"There is a perverse incentive that if you hit, leave, and stay away, you're going to spend less time than if you stayed and you were a human being at the scene," said Assm. Jim Patterson, (R) Fresno.

Patterson sponsored Gavin's Law to take away some of that incentive by increasing the hit and run punishment to between three and six years in prison.

Dozens of people called the state senate's public safety committee Friday to support the change, including a young voice with a very personal connection.

"Hi, my name is Isla Gladding," the vice principal's 9-year-old daughter said to the committee. "My dad Gavin was involved in a hit and run and I want to tell you that I support Gavin's Law."

But only one of the Democrats on the committee supported the bill.

Mostly, they questioned whether increasing punishment ever really acts as a deterrent to any crime.

"But I think In this instance and with this set of circumstances it does something," said St. Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, (D) Santa Barbara. "It could do something."

The bill fell one vote short of getting out of committee Friday, but the bill also fell short in the Assembly committee.

They made some edits then and it eventually got 72 votes from the 80-member Assembly.

Patterson and the Gladding family are hoping this history repeats so their family's tragedy does not.
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