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New Oregon law makes “aggravated driving while suspended or revoked” a felony

Posted by on June 29th, 2009 at 9:48 am

Sen. Floyd Prozanski.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Recently passed House Bill 3271 — a bill that addresses a number of types of harassment — includes language that establishes the new crime of “Aggravated Driving While Suspended or Revoked”.

The bill passed through the Oregon Legislature late Thursday and the language to address aggravated driving was added as an amendment pushed by Senator Floyd Prozanski at the behest of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA). Sen. Prozanski, an avid bike rider, is also the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The House version of this bill passed with no mention of this new crime, but Prozanski got the crime of vehicular homicide added into the Senate version. The Senate passed it with the Prozanski amendment, but then the House refused to concur with the amendments (7 Republican House members voted no).

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From the House, it was assigned to a conference committee to work out the kinks. In that committee, the bill was amended to say that the new felony would be triggered not just when someone was killed, but also when a serious injury resulted. That change meant that “vehicular homicide” no longer adequately described the crime, and the new crime, “aggravated driving” was put forth.

Legislator bike ride at the Oregon Bike Summit-8

Sen. Prozanski.

Also in conference committee, the bill was changed so that, in order for the new charge to stick, the motor vehicle operator must be “knowingly” driving with a suspended or revoked license and their license had to have been suspended due to, “a prior criminal conviction” as opposed to it being suspended for an administrative reason, such as failure to appear in court for a citation.

With these changes worked out, both and House and the Senate then re-passed the bill.

After their initial vehicular homicide bill, HB 3399, died in committee back in April, the BTA identified HB 3271 as a place where at least part of that bill could find some life.

The penalty would be charged as a Class C Felony, which carries a maximum prison term of 5 years and/or a maximum fine of $125,000.

BTA lobbyist and Legislative Committee Chair Doug Parrow said that, while the bill isn’t as broadly applicable to dangerous drivers as they had hoped, they believe that, “the establishment of the crime… represents an important step forward in holding these drivers responsible for their actions.”

Download the full text of the bill here.

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32 Comments
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    Matt Picio June 29, 2009 at 9:53 am

    Agreed, it’s an important step forward – way to go! Hopefully we can get some momentum going in the next session to expand this.

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    K'Tesh June 29, 2009 at 10:05 am

    +1 on Matt’s comment

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    peejay June 29, 2009 at 10:11 am

    I never understood why law enforcement officials don’t want to place a greater importance to getting these drivers off the road, permanently. I mean, they are the kind of people who end up being very dangerous to apprehend, with all attendant dangers to the arresting officers.

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    q`Tzal June 29, 2009 at 10:13 am

    +education for police and prosecutors about this new tool to remove unsafe drivers from our roads.

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    Dave June 29, 2009 at 10:13 am

    Will police be allowed to treat these drivers in such a way as to induce an actual fear of driving while suspended?
    Drivers have nothing to fear–they won’t go to jail, and police can administer no “street juctice.” Drivers who should not be on the road need to fear being on the road. This won’t accomplish that; why fucking bother?

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    Bjorn June 29, 2009 at 10:26 am

    The biggest problem with the wording is probably that it requires a criminal conviction. My understanding is this will not apply to the person whose license is suspended due to a large number of traffic violations like speeding. I wish I knew what percentage of the drivers whose licenses have been suspended/revoked in Oregon would fall under the criminal definition.

    Overall though congratulations are in order for Doug and the BTA lobby team. This was an incredibly difficult session to pass any bill that had an associated cost, and getting it took skill and hard work.

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    ScottG June 29, 2009 at 10:28 am

    I see a potential loophole in this effort. Let’s first establish that a person who continues to drive on a suspended license is flaunting the law and knows that they’re doing it. Now, if they get into a crash, and are aware of the massive new penalties for driving with a suspended license, what do you think they are going to do? I think they would become more likely to hit and run and try to get away.

    My preference would be to increase hit and run penalties to ensure they are much higher than what could happen to you if you stay at the scene of the crash.

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    Vance Longwell June 29, 2009 at 10:38 am

    Why do I get the feeling that Mexican nationals, Mexican-Americans and non-custodial fathers of all walks just got hosed? Hopefully this law will also have the magic-power to make law-enforcement instantaneously color-blind. I also hope that this law will apply to young white women, and Soccer moms alike, even if they cry in court. This too – I hope this book doesn’t just get thrown at poor people. It would be nice to think good legal counsel won’t provide a free pass.

    Dave #5 – I strongly disagree that government should ever adopt a stance intended to terrorize it’s constituents.

    With that said, this is a good bill. I am also pleased to see that some quick thinking, and skillful politics made it happen. I really do hope justice is meted out, and that this isn’t just another reason to hate being poor, and brown, in America.

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    wsbob June 29, 2009 at 10:50 am

    peejay, what makes you think they don’t want to get these people off the road permanently? Not just cops, but everybody? Is there anyone that wants having these people on the road with them?

    Even when people have permanently lost their privilege to drive, outside of locking them up, it can be very hard to keep people that are determined to drive from doing so. There are people out there having lost their license that deliberately drive drunk. On the occasion they get caught, they spend a little time in jail, then go right back out again doing the same stupid thing.

    One good thing about a bill like this is that it puts a little more muscle into motivating people that possess some sense of responsibility, but have messed up, to put that sense of responsibility into actual practice, consistently.

    For all the rest of the people that have no sense of responsibility, or completely toss it to the wind, it’s a tough go, figuring out what to do about them. I wish there were a pill we could give these people that would let them function normally in every aspect of their daily lives, but make it physically, and psychologically impossible for them drive at all once they got behind the wheel.

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    Lord Nelson June 29, 2009 at 10:56 am

    Bone. I throws you one. Now go away until ’11.

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    q`Tzal June 29, 2009 at 11:05 am

    Vance:
    It’s easy to see that this could, and probably will, be used to persecute minorities of all races (almost any law can be maliciously applied by a bigoted cop)…

    How, oh how did this bill become anti-men (and non-custodial fathers)?

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    Nick June 29, 2009 at 11:28 am

    On the surface it sounds nice, but America is already #1, by far, in jailing its people. Our system makes criminals worse, not better. We need to overhaul our justice system before we can be justified in being happy about ANYONE being locked up.

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    Vance Longwell June 29, 2009 at 11:30 am

    q’Tzal #11 – What’s with the punitive tone? There isn’t a drop of ire in my comment. What’s with you people? I’m not allowed an opinion? (Shaking head). So ya, I don’t have a single fact at hand to back it up, rest assured that’ll change by the end of the day. For now would you agree that there are more non-custodial fathers in Oregon, than non-custodial mothers? If so, how is that not discrimination against men? If so, do you know that about the first thing that goes when you don’t pay your child-support, is your Driver License? Hence my stated opinion.

    It is also my opinion that attractive white women get off easy way too much. Opinion. Especially regarding DUII. Especially when it comes to putting them in a prison facility. Especially when they live in a society where men are conditioned to defer to their, “Weakness”, and are subsequently compelled to protect them. Opinion. Opinion.

    No need to be nasty. Just disagree with me for Pete’s sake. I think these are legitimate concerns. If divorce court unduly discriminates against men. If custody is awarded most frequently to women for no good reason, then there are serious implications regarding a law that has to do with Driver Licenses. Because it is exactly that that the courts use as a stick to beat one into compliance with custodial, and divorce issues.

    If my concern is to be construed as, “…anti-men”, then so be it. If the shoe fits. I do however fail to see that written anywhere in my comment. Now, if you didn’t intend to patronize me, then allow me to apologize in advance for my tone. It’s getting a little old.

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    jami June 29, 2009 at 11:33 am

    Awesome, but this should have been unanimous.

    Voting in favor of the apparently powerful kill-people-with-their-cars-with-impunity lobby:
    Kevin Cameron, Republican, Salem
    Sal Esquivel, Republican, Medford
    Tim Freeman, Republican, Roseburg
    George Gilman, Republican, Medford
    Bruce Hanna, Republican, Roseburg
    Ron Maurer, Republican, Grants Pass
    Jim Weidner, Republican, Yamhill

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    q`Tzal June 29, 2009 at 11:47 am

    Actually I DO agree with you on this topic; both the law and police bias.

    As long as the cops are human and not robots we will be putting up with the biases of humans. They are just people that are no better than everyone else that they police.

    Does this excuse the behavior of bad cops? No.

    The seeming innocent looking soccer mom or car full of nubile teens winking and smiling their way out of a ticket is so common maybe we need to be hiring more women as officers. The fact that attractive white women, or attractive women in general, can “game” the system is not endemic of a flaw in the system but a flaw in us: men.
    We allow ourselves to be manipulated this way and expect that the system will allow for full gender equality in enforcement.

    Maybe the guilty party in this case is men.

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    Lord Nelson June 29, 2009 at 11:48 am

    I agree with Nick (#12): It’s far better to stop dangerous drivers from driving indefinitely then to threaten them with jail for a year or two. Unfortunately, nobody has effectively figured out how to do this. The expensive bueaucracy required to license drivers is totally ineffective at restricting driving privileges — not to mention actual driving — to those who demonstrate their ability to exercise them without harming others.

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    Vance Longwell June 29, 2009 at 11:55 am

    #15 – Truer words have never been spoken. Wasn’t speaking to the, “why”, as much as the, “how”. Which I do for effect. Which prolly get’s me in trouble.

    Prison isn’t the joy-ride some here seem to think. Neither is losing your voting rights, or your constitutionally protected right to bear arms. This is a fantastic bill, but I reiterate my concern that it stands to be abused more than other types of laws, is all. Opinion. Thanks for playing it straight.

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    chad June 29, 2009 at 12:15 pm

    Even though I keep up on Oregon laws as they apply to me as a bicyclist I was completely blown away by the treatment (or lack there-of) of the unlicensed and and uninsured driver who “fell asleep”, ran a red light and hit me a couple weeks ago.

    While I am now saddled with thousands of dollars lost to medical bills and lost wages plus a totaled bike, he got a couple hundred dollar citation and an impounded car, which after paying a couple hundred dollars to get it out of impound is probably being driven today.

    I am not for throwing every law breaker in jail, but when there is virtually no culpability these unlicensed and uninsured drivers feel almost no fear of any repercussions when they get behind the wheel of an automobile.

    This bill is a good start, but Oregon has a long way to go to making our streets safer.

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    jami June 29, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    It’s nice to hear the research findings of Vance and q’Tzal on attractive (white) women in law enforcement situations.

    (I’m lying. It’s actually kind of alienating.)

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    Brot June 29, 2009 at 12:48 pm

    I think the concerns about unequal enforcement are a bit misplaced here. People don’t get pulled over for driving suspended. This new law serves to enhance a charge when someone gets hurt, it’s not a primary offense. So, the only class or race of people subject to this will be the ones who continue to drive dangerously and hurt someone.

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    Matt Picio June 29, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    Dave (#5) – Then why learn to walk? I mean, taking that one step won’t get you to the corner store, so why bother?

    There’s no way the legislature is going to do what needs to be done with a single bill – this lays the groundwork. Yes, it’s slow as hell, yes, it’s frustrating. Yes, there are people dying because these people aren’t being kept off the road, but it’s a step – the campaign against drunk driving was painfully slow when it started, too.

    Senator Prozanski deserves credit for inserting language which at least puts one more tooth back into the law – sure, the law isn’t going to win any smiling contests anytime soon, but in this case anything is better than nothing.

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    Vance Longwell June 29, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    Brot #20 – While I agree to a certain extent, the basis for this charge is going to be that of having an accident, and then subsequently charged based upon whether or not one’s credentials are in order.

    If we, as a society, for whatever reasons, hand those credentials out, and take them away, in an unfair manner, this unfairness will then be compounded when this additional charge is made. By way of for instance, it is my opinion that a law like this is going to pose dire consequences for the illegal alien. Maybe that’s the point, but the America I want to live in treats all people the same, regardless of who whitey is handing out privilege to.

    Now, there is a recidivist component to this thing that I think is meant to address this a little bit. I’m still concerned though, the impact of this along certain demographic, ethnic, race, and gender lines.

    Don’t forget this also is criminalizing an accident here.

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    Bjorn June 29, 2009 at 5:34 pm

    Vance #13

    Because not paying your child support is not a criminal reason for suspension I don’t think this law will have any impact on people whose licenses are suspended for being deadbeat dads/moms. Perhaps that concern is the reason for the wording, I don’t know.

    Bjorn

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    steve June 29, 2009 at 10:28 pm

    jami-

    Read through this website, or simply use google to find a bazillion other examples, then remind me about how ‘alienated’ you are.

    http://www.accessmylibrary.com/coms2/summary_0286-30911937_ITM

    Here is a small excerpt-

    “The prediction that females will receive milder sentencing outcomes receives such consistent support from a wide range of studies done since the 1980s, and encompassing many different jurisdictions in the United States, that it may be one of the best established facts regarding criminal justice outcomes.”

    After trying to collate that into your worldview, go visit a women’s prison and look around for the smattering of white women in the sea of darker skin.

    Sorry you feel alienated, I am sure there are a few thousand support groups in town to help ya out with that.

    Back to the original post, I am pretty darned aggravated whenever I find myself having to drive..

    The ‘

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    rixtir June 30, 2009 at 1:13 am

    Vance, your comments make it clear that you haven’t even read the legislation, let alone understood it.

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    Dave June 30, 2009 at 7:47 am

    q”Tzal, I like how you think. Too many testosterone-driven cops can be “winked” out of writing a ticket. Women who can relate to the technique and see through it, should constitute more of the traffic end of the police force.

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    rixtir June 30, 2009 at 8:42 am

    Cops being swayed by winking hotties has nothing to do with this legislation.

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    Lord Nelson June 30, 2009 at 8:45 am

    Nope, not a damn thing.

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  • […] "Aggravated Driving" With a Suspended License Becomes a Felony in Oregon (Bike Portland) […]

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    Dave June 30, 2009 at 10:18 am

    Vance L, please explain how this bill will work to actually control the behavior of drivers. Without fear of certain punishment, whether judicial or corporal, how will this work?

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    SkidMark June 30, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    People do get pulled over for driving after suspension, and just for that. The reason I know is because I was pulled over 8 times in one year while driving my girlfriend’s car, whill HER license was suspended. See the cops would roll up behind me driving her car and pull me over without me making any sort of moving violation. They would ask me for my license registration and insurance (which I had) and make up some bullshit reason for pulling me over, which they would not give me a ticket for, comfirming it was bullshit. As soon as they saw that I was driving legally they would send me on my way. To this day i still regard this a as harassment, because I didn’t make a moving violation, my license is valid, and the car is registered and insured, so essentially they pulled me over for no reason.

    My point is that Police roll around all day pulling up behind (usually older, beat up cars) and run their plates. I just wish they would perform the same “courtesy” on newer shiny cars, they’d probably catch a whole lot more people.

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    NP July 1, 2009 at 9:53 am

    I hear you on that one, SkidMark!

    But there are times when I wish bicyclists were licensed. I’ve had too many close calls from aggressive bikers speeding thru or on cross walks with no regard to the right of way of pedestrians! I’ve decided, next time I won’t be jumping out of their way! I gaurantee you, with the speed they’re going, they will see more hang time than I will!

    And if it isn’t already, driving while talking on a cell phone should be an aggravated offense (yeah, as stated previously, this is addressed to “young white women” and “soccer moms” especially) because it is aggravating when idiots feel they are above the law and have no consideration for their surroundings. Contrary to your belief, ladies, you ARE disrupting traffic!!

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