sb 1553

Negligent driving bill won’t pass this session

Avatar by on March 3rd, 2016 at 1:52 pm

“Split second motor vehicle responses should not lead to a felony.”
— Eric Deitrick, legislative rep for Oregon Criminal Defense Lawyers Association

A bill that would have increased the consequences for people whose negligent driving resulted in a serious injury of a vulnerable road user has ran out of time.

After sailing through the Senate Judiciary committee on a 4-1 vote, SB 1553-B easily passed the full Oregon Senate on February 26th. The bill was lining up support and was expected to do well in the Oregon House, but then Salem politics got in the way. We confirmed this morning that with just a few days left in the shortened legislative session, the bill is stuck in committee and it won’t move forward.
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‘Negligence gap’ bill passes committee 4-1, now heads for Senate vote

Avatar by on February 10th, 2016 at 1:37 pm


Senator Floyd Prozanski ferried
the bill through committee.
(Photo: J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Oregon Senate Judiciary Committee voted 4-1 to pass a bill that would revise existing law and create a new crime for negligent motor vehicle operators.

As we reported yesterday, Senate Bill 1553 would add one sentence to the list of behaviors that could result in someone charged with violating ORS 163.165. The sentence reads, “[A person commits the crime of assault in the third degree if the person:] With criminal negligence causes serious physical injury to another who is a vulnerable user of a public way by means of a motor vehicle.”

The Multnomah County District Attorney’s office is pushing for this new law out of frustration over cases where someone causes serious physical injury due to their negligent driving and is able to walk away with only a traffic ticket. The new crime would come with a felony charge punishable by a maximum of 11 months in jail for the most egregious cases. The DA’s office say they anticipate most of the cases will result in probation and a restitution payment plan to the victim overseen by a parole officer. In total the law is estimated to be triggered in about 15-16 annual cases statewide. [Read more…]

Lawmakers hear testimony on bill that would fill driving’s “negligence gap”

Avatar by on February 9th, 2016 at 11:20 am


Julia Corkett’s son had his leg severed by a man who
made a dangerous left turn. She testified about it
in Salem yesterday.

A man’s decision to make a dangerous left turn in front of Alistair Corkett back in May led to a horrific outcome. The 22 year-old’s leg was severed from his body. Barry Allen, the man who was at fault for Corkett’s life-changing injury, was only given a traffic ticket.

If Corkett had died in the collision, the Multnomah County District Attorney’s office would have pursued criminal charges which would not only have provided some level of justice for the community but would have allowed Corkett’s family to seek restitution from the state. However, because Corkett “only” suffered an injury, the DA did not pursue criminal charges.

Back in October at a BikePortland event that was inspired by Corkett’s case, Multnomah County DA Rod Underhill did not mince words when expressing his frustration. “It pissed me off. I’m angry. It just doesn’t seem right. We need to change the law.”
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At Wonk Night, County DA announces effort to change state law

Avatar by on October 27th, 2015 at 12:09 pm


Multnomah County DA Rod Underhill (with Deputy DA
Chuck Sparks on his left) addressing last
night’s Wonk Night crowd.
(Photos © J. Maus/BikePortland)

We had two firsts at Wonk Night last night: An activist group used the event as a platform for their cause, showing up en masse with protest signs and demands; and an elected official announced a new legislative proposal that could someday change Oregon law.

It all started quite unexpectedly. As I set up the room for the event about 17 people walked in who I’d never seen before. They were carrying signs that said things like “Justice for Chandler!”, “Speed Bumps for Chandler!”, “Slow Down” and so on. It caught me off guard and it took me a few seconds to realize that the “Chandler” in their posters was Chris Chandler, the man who was killed last month on SE Stark.
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Wonk Night (10/26) will focus on Oregon’s negligence gap

Avatar by on October 20th, 2015 at 1:55 pm

“There ought to be some higher level of consequence when you use a deadly weapon to kill someone, even if you didn’t do it on purpose.”
— Ray Thomas, lawyer at Swanson Thomas Coon & Newton

There’s a gap in Oregon law that has outraged citizens and hamstrung prosecutors for many years. It’s a gap that makes it all too common for someone to receive a mere traffic citation when their actions while operating a vehicle lead directly to a serious injury or fatality.

This maddening situation first made major headlines here on BikePortland following our tragic October of 2007 when Tracey Sparling and Brett Jarolimek where killed in traffic collisions. In both cases the person behind the wheel of a large truck turned across a bicycle lane that was already occupied and two people died as a result. Despite those actions, the District Attorney declined to pursue criminal charges in either case.

The problem here isn’t with the DA’s office. The DA is constrained by Oregon law which currently has a yawning gap between the culpability threshold of a traffic ticket and a more serious criminal charge.

“There ought to be some higher level of consequence when you use a deadly weapon to kill someone, even if you didn’t do it on purpose.” That’s how noted lawyer Ray Thomas described the problem to us when we published a story about this gap in 2010.
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