New Arizona law stiffens penalties on drivers with suspended licenses

May 21, 2018, 4:25 AM | Updated: 1:34 pm
(Flickr/Allen Allen)...
(Flickr/Allen Allen)
(Flickr/Allen Allen)

PHOENIX — A new state law stiffens the penalties for drivers who cause serious injuries or deaths while driving on a suspended license.

It’s known as Pam’s law.

It’s named after Pamela Hesselbacher, a Chandler woman who was killed by a red-light runner while walking with her two children on a crosswalk. Her children were seriously hurt.

The driver was driving with a suspended license and without the proper insurance. He was charged with a Class 3 misdemeanor, which carries a penalty of 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.

“Unfortunately, there was a loophole in the law that allowed him to get off with a slap on the wrist,” said state Rep. Maria Syms, who sponsored the bill. “This new law will hold people like that accountable.”

Under the new state law, drivers with a suspended license who cause serious injuries could lose their driving privileges for 180 days, double the time it was before. For cases involving a death, drivers could have their licenses suspended for a full year.

In both cases, drivers could face up to 6 months in jail.

Syms said she was encouraged to introduce HB 2522 after hearing about Hesselbacher’s story.

“As a lawmaker and as a mom of young children myself, the story really spoke to me,” she said, adding she hopes her bill will serve as a “strong deterrent” for drivers who have suspended licenses.

Hesselbacher’s mother, Jody Kieran, testified in favor of the bill during a Senate committee hearing in March. She told lawmakers that even though the bill wouldn’t change the penalty for the driver who killed her daughter, she hoped this would help others.

“What happened to Pamela is not right,” Kieran said. “But in her honor, I ask that you make it right for others.”

HB 2522 was among the last batch of bills Governor Doug Ducey signed into law last week. In total, the governor signed 346 bills and vetoed 23 others this year.

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New Arizona law stiffens penalties on drivers with suspended licenses