Illinois declares more opportunity to serve justice against careless
drivers, eliminates statute of limitations
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[NOV. 12, 2005]
CHICAGO -- Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich
signed a new law Wednesday that immediately gives prosecutors the
authority they need to go after hit-and-run drivers.
Senate Bill 1943 makes a previous law eliminating the statute of
limitations for prosecuting drivers involved in hit-and-run
accidents effective immediately. The original legislation,
House Bill 885 -- sponsored by Rep. Susana A. Mendoza,
D-Chicago, and Sen. Dan Cronin, R-Lombard, and signed by Blagojevich
in August -- gave investigators and prosecutors more time to find
and bring to justice drivers who leave the scene of an accident.
But, that law wasn't to go into effect until January.
The newly signed law was
sponsored by Mendoza and Sen. Carole Pankau, R-Roselle, and was
inspired by the hit-and-run death of 6-year-old Patrick Leahy in
suburban Winfield. His killer was not found before the legal statute
of limitation ran out.
"We shouldn't wait another minute to hold drivers accountable for
hit-and-run accidents like the one that took Patrick's young life,"
Blagojevich said. "Those who flee from responsibility after an
accident should not be able to get off the hook just because enough
time has passed. Now, we can give law enforcement all the time they
need to solve hit-and-runs and bring justice to the people who are
hurt as a result of careless drivers."
The Patrick Leahy Law eliminates the current three-year statute
of limitation for prosecution of cases involving drivers who leave
the scene of an accident and eliminates the current 1½-year statute
of limitation for failing to give information or aid following a car
crash that results in death, personal injury or damage to an
attended vehicle. The governor's signature on Senate Bill 1943 makes
the law effective immediately, rather than on Jan. 1, 2006, which
was the effective date of the original law.
"Thanks to this quick action, families whose cases would have run
out before January 2006 can now have their cases heard," said bill
sponsor Mendoza. "Removing the statute of limitations on these
crimes will allow that families are not victimized twice -- once by
the tragedy involving their loved ones and a second one by our own
laws. I am extremely grateful to Governor Blagojevich for
understanding the need to move the effective date of this
legislation forward, and I also thank him on behalf of the family of
[to top of second column in this article]
"In August, the governor signed the Patrick Leahy Law to
eliminate the statute of limitations for prosecuting drivers
involved in hit-and-run accidents," Pankau said. "Named after the
6-year-old hit-and-run victim in Winfield, the new law was supposed
to take effect Jan. 1, 2006. However, we learned there are several
pending hit-and-run cases that would have slipped though the cracks
before then, so we passed Senate Bill 1943 to make sure that those
cases will continue and, we hope, be resolved."
Patrick Leahy was riding his bicycle with his 9-year-old brother
and several friends near downtown Winfield on Aug. 17, 1999, when he
was struck and killed by a truck, possibly from a rental company.
Despite an intense investigation that included posting thousands of
fliers and hypnotizing a witness, Winfield police and the DuPage
County Major Crimes Task Force have not found the male driver.
[News release from the governor's