SALT LAKE CITY -- A local lawmaker's bill would take away the potential for double jeopardy in a serious motor vehicle accident.
A bill sponsored by Rep. Jeremy Peterson, R-Ogden, would establish a guideline to limit a police officer from issuing a citation too quickly in the case of a serious accident where someone is hospitalized.
The measure, HB 93, passed the House by a unanimous vote Thursday and now moves to the Senate for further consideration.
Peterson said an officer's initial assessment of the facts in the case of a serious accident, at which someone has been hospitalized or killed, could jeopardize the final outcome. He used the example of an officer issuing a person a ticket for failure to yield at the scene of an accident, only to find out later the person was driving under the influence. If the person pleads guilty to the citation, they cannot be charged again in relation to the accident.
The Ogden lawmaker said the legislation was spurred by Weber County cases.
The bill ensures that the police agency investigating the crime would share the accident results with the county prosecuting attorney, and then charges could potentially follow.
Peterson said there have been instances -- on the scene -- where the victims and suspects are not at the scene, they are at the hospital, but officers have issued citations anyway.
"We had an instance in my area where a person was cited for failure to yield, and it turns out they were under the influence. That ship has sailed. They can't be tried for the same crime twice," Peterson said.
Rep. Lee Perry, R-Perry, who works for the UHP, lauded the bill.
"This is good policy. It's trying to prevent people from getting away with murder. I support what he's doing here. This is a policy I operate under in my other job," Perry said.
Rep. Lee Greenwood, R-Roy, who also works in law enforcement, praised the initiative.
"What this does," he said, "is gives the law enforcement agency a little more time to do a proper investigation and then take the results to the county attorney."