Legislation that could yank driver’s licenses from people arrested for vehicular homicide is moving toward final passage after winning Senate committee approval Tuesday.
The legislation was proposed in response to the motorcycle accident deaths of Brandon Wright, 22, and his wife, Joanna Wright, 21, in 2009 on La. 1019 near Watson.
Jeremy Powell of Pine Grove was sentenced to 10 years in prison in February for driving into oncoming traffic and hitting the Wrights.
Powell was arrested for vehicular homicide and driving while intoxicated. He also tested for having hydrocodone in his system, according to the prosecution.
But Lisa Allen, the mother of Brandon Wright and the guardian of his 7-year-old son, said she had to watch Powell drive off from the courtroom while the legal proceedings went on for 18 months.
A legal loophole did not allow the judge to suspend Powell’s license while he was still pleading not guilty, Allen said..
“It is my prayer that my son and my daughter-in-law … did not die in vain,” Lilly said, while holding a framed photo of them.
The Senate Committee on Judiciary B approved House Bill 638 by Rep. Bodi White, R-Central, without opposition. The bill next heads to the Senate floor for consideration.
White said his only goal is to keep those charged with vehicular homicide from driving during legal proceedings, and not to increases the penalties.
“What we’re doing is taking the gun away from them … we’re taking the vehicle away from them so they can’t kill people,” White said.
The legislation sets up a court hearing process in which persons arrested for vehicular homicide automatically have their licenses yanked, but they get back a temporary 30-day license.
For the temporary licenses to go beyond 30 days, they must make a written appeal for a court hearing in order to plead their cases for extensions.
If not, a one-year license suspension then goes into effect, without eligibility for a hardship license, during the legal proceedings.
If they are convicted of vehicular homicide, then the legislation would place additional two-year license bans after they are released from prison.
White said they can opt for riding bicycles or using public transportation instead.