Words from the heart help sway lawmakers to take closer look at 'Gavin's Law'

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- When Susan Gladding took to the stand to honor her late husband's memory she knew it would be an uphill battle.

"I was difficult to do but it was something that I knew was very important," she said.

She's in Sacramento to push for Gavin's Law, named after Clovis Unified Vice Principal Gavin Gladding, who was killed in a hit-and-run crash last year.

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Her family and Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) want to close an existing loophole they claim encourage intoxicated drivers to flee the scene.

"What we want to do is make sure that if you hit, run, hurt, that you be a human being about it, that you stay and provide aid, that you don't take evidence and leave the scene," Patterson said.

The bill allows for drivers involved in fatal crashes to be sentenced up to eight years in prison.

Under the current law, the maximum punishment is four.

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Members of the Public Safety Committee were at first opposed, worried about unintended consequences.
"Some will interpret going three blocks, very different than going five miles, very different from going home and trying to fix up a banged up car," said Assemblymember Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-Los Angeles).

The Gladdings' emotional story convinced lawmakers to change their mind.

Instead of voting against the bill, they have pledged to work with Patterson to make amendments.

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"I felt Gavin with me this whole time. and I think he let the words come through my mouth because this is important," Susan Gladding said.

One of the changes includes giving a judge more discretion in sentencing.

The bill is expected to be taken up for another vote in the coming months.
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