AG Brnovich Works with Rep. Syms to Close Suspended License Law Loophole

PHOENIX - Attorney General Mark Brnovich teamed up with State Representative Maria Syms to introduce legislation that would fix a loophole in Arizona law that prevented prosecutors from being able to file felony charges against a man driving on a suspended license after he ran a red light and killed a Chandler mother.

In 2016, Pamela Hesselbacher and her children were struck by a truck while walking across a crosswalk on their way home from the park. Her children suffered serious injuries and Pamela was killed. The driver had a suspended license for failure to maintain high-risk insurance. The driver was required to maintain high risk insurance because he had a long history of driving violations, including several DUI charges.

“Pamela was thrown 130 feet to her death and her two children were critically injured by the impact of a red-light runner driving an uninsured truck on a suspended license,” said Jody Kieran, mother of Pamela Hesselbacher. “Despite a long history of reckless driving, multiple DUI charges and failure to comply with court orders, the driver was still on the road. Due to loopholes and laws with no teeth, this individual will pay the same penalty as a person who litters within 20 feet of a highway.”

“We need to address the shortfalls in the law that allowed a high-risk driver with a suspended license to walk away from a horrific accident with a slap on the wrist,” said Attorney General Mark Brnovich. “By seeking tougher penalties for those who drive on a suspended license, we can obtain justice for innocent victims like Pamela Hesselbacher and her family.”

After meeting with Pamela’s family and consulting with the Attorney General’s Office, Rep. Syms introduced House Bill 2522. The bill would close the existing loophole in the law that allowed the driver in Pamela’s case to walk away with only a misdemeanor charge.  Instead, prosecutors will be able to bring felony charges against a driver who seriously injures or kills another person while committing a traffic violation and driving on a suspended license for failing to maintain high-risk insurance. While the change won’t impact the case of the driver involved in Pamela’s death, it will ensure that prosecutors have the proper tools and the discretion to bring wrongdoers to justice in the future.

“As a mother of three and a state lawmaker, this is the kind of tragedy that keeps me up at night,” said Representative Maria Syms. “I find it outrageous that someone with a suspended license can get away with causing the death of a young mother and serious injury to her two babies. We owe it to Pamela and her family, to make sure high-risk drivers who get behind the wheel with a suspended license are held accountable under the law.”

HB2522 will be heard in the house Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, February 14, 2018.

Full copy of HB 2522.