Upping the Penalties
As the governor signed House Bill 25, known as the Adam Arnold Bill for the teen who was killed by a drunk driver in 1996 in Key West, Adam's mother looked on in anticipation.
"The boy who killed my son literally got three years probation, and I got stuck with the medical bills and the loss of my son," Doris Arnold said.
According to State Attorney Bill Cervone, under the new law, Adam's killer would have faced a mandatory minimum prison sentence of two years for fleeing the scene of the accident.
"In the past, no matter what the sentencing was, there was no mandatory provision," Cervone explained. "It's possible for a sentence less than that to actually have been imposed."
The Adam Arnold Bill also increases the minimum sentence for D.U.I. manslaughter to four years; and another bill, House Bill 409, increases the penalty for attempted murder certain law enforcement officials.
"Attempted murder, generally speaking, is going to require a prison sentence somewhere in the range of five to ten years and potentially more depending on whether a firearm for example was used," Cervone said.
Those convicted of attempted murder of a police officers, prosecutors or judges face a minimum prison sentence of more than nine years. Because both bills affect criminal charges however, the new laws will not be retroactive.
"Criminal sentencing cannot be changed retroactively," Cervone said. "The new law must apply only to cases that occur on or after the date it goes into effect."
The new laws go into effect on July 1, 2007, so the incidents that took the lives of Gainesville Police Lieutenant Corey Dahlem and Adam Arnold will not be influenced by the new laws, but Doris Arnold said it's an important step forward.
"This obviously won't help adam, but it will help others because hit-and-run happens every day," she said. "This will help at least to bring some sort of penalty and correct the wrong that the system had overlooked."
By Ted Latiak, WCJB TV20 News.
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