The state House of Representatives passed legislation this evening introduced by State Representatives David Labriola (R-131) which increases the penalties for engaging police officers in pursuit.This bill increases the penalties for someone who, in order to escape or elude a police officer, increases his or her driving speed after an officer in a police vehicle signals to stop by using an audible signal or flashing lights.
The bill increases the penalty from a class A misdemeanor to a class D felony for a first offense that does not cause death or serious physical injury, a class D felony to a class C felony for a first offense that causes death or serious physical injury, and a class D felony to a class C felony for a second offense, regardless of whether it causes physical injury.
“Those who risk the lives of citizens, the lives of police officers, and their own lives by engaging them in dangerous pursuit are reckless and ought to be dealt with severely,” said Rep. Labriola. “This measure ratchets up the penalties for leading the police on a chase and makes the penalties under the law more commensurate with the serious public hazard such actions create.”
By law, a one year mandatory minimum sentence applies if the current and a prior offense caused death or serious physical injury. A first offense carries a one year driver’s license suspension and a subsequent offense carries a suspension of 18 months to two years.
The measure is supported by John E. Danaher, Commissioner of Public Safety who testified in a public hearing on the bill that he did not believe current misdemeanor penalty status for engaging police in pursuit was sufficient. The bill is also supported by the Connecticut Police Chiefs’ Association.
The bill passed the house by a vote of 143 – 0, and now heads to the Senate for action there.