Sen. Cyrway: When it arrives to habitual offenders, Tina’s Law is there for a purpose

When Tina Turcotte died in July 2005, her dying brought on an outrage that echoed across the state. The 40-calendar year-old Scarborough lady was killed when a truck driver did not heed slowing traffic on Interstate 95 in Hallowell and slammed into the rear of her car or truck, effectively crushing her vehicle among his taxi and an additional truck in entrance of her.

Crisis responders get the job done March 4 at the scene of a head-on crash on Oxford Avenue in Paris. A Woodstock person who experienced pleaded guilty final 12 months to vehicular manslaughter critically injured a Portland woman immediately after main law enforcement on a chase. Russ Dillingham/Sunshine Journal

She held on for two days just before succumbing to her injuries, still her death has resonated in the many years given that.

It wasn’t the accident or even her loss of life by itself that drew the outrage – hundreds of fatalities from motor motor vehicle incidents sadly occur each and every 12 months on Maine’s roadways. It was the reality that the truck driver, Scott Hewitt of Caribou, had a driving document that incorporated 63 convictions, 22 license suspensions and a past fatality.

He should not have been driving. Interval.

In response, Maine’s Legislature unanimously handed L.D. 1906, An Act to Safeguard Maine’s Highways, in 2006. Called “Tina’s Law” in her honor, the monthly bill strengthened Maine’s running following suspension-revocation violations and habitual offender guidelines. It also developed two new motor car crimes linked to leading to significant bodily personal injury or death though driving with a suspended or revoked license, and aggravated functioning just after recurring offender revocation.

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The concept back then – as it ought to continue to be these days – is if you discourage someone from driving immediately after they get rid of their license and codify additional significant penalties if they do, it would retain recurring offenders off the roadways and lower down the linked threat they pose to other people.

A single of the bill’s sponsors, Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham, who is basically serving once again in Maine’s Senate, stated in 2006 that the regulation was necessary because Hewitt would have been categorized as a habitual offender and probably wouldn’t have been on the highway that summer months experienced Tina’s Regulation been on the books.

“I believe there are incidents out there waiting around to take place if we never transform the regulation and transform people’s attitudes,” Diamond told the media back again then. “What we have accomplished is we have taught individuals that in Maine it’s Alright to push with a suspended license … that driving whilst suspended is not a huge deal.”

As a former law enforcement officer myself, I couldn’t concur extra. And the efficiency of this sort of regulations resurfaced in 2013 when a Saco father was killed and his 17-month-outdated son critically hurt in Biddeford while bicycling. The driver, David Labonte of Biddeford, had four working beneath the affect convictions on his history when he crashed into the relatives, also injuring the boy’s mom. He was serving a 10-yr sentence when he died in 2020.

And just very last month a Woodstock male whose license need to have been suspended next a guilty plea very last yr for vehicular manslaughter critically injured a Portland female just after primary police on a chase in Oxford County. Ethan Rioux-Poulios’ plea was the end result of however another law enforcement chase in 2019 that killed John Pikiell, 71, of Norway. Two law enforcement chases, both ending in personal injury or death – that’s what rules like Tina’s Legislation are meant to reduce.

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Nonetheless if a invoice proposed by Democrats is handed, it would undo what the preceding Legislature intended to be both of those a stiff deterrence and an even stiffer penalty if you’re caught driving without having a license, and do nothing at all to motorists like Rioux-Poulios even if his license had been suspended properly.

By way of L.D. 1604, Democrats want to transfer particular Course E wildlife and targeted visitors felony offenses to civil infractions. Although some of the invoice assists a significantly backlogged judicial program, it waters down the classification of recurring offenders though ignoring individuals like Rioux-Poulios who pose just as a great deal danger since of their weak, reckless and, in his situation, criminal driving behavior.

In essence, Democrats will be reversing a thing they essentially acquired correct 16 decades ago. The sad section for me is that if her lifetime hadn’t been taken so unnecessarily, I ponder what Tina Turcotte would have imagined.

 

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