2011 Legislative Preview: HB 1003

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See here for explanation of what we’re doing.

Bill Name: An Act To Make It A Felony To Exceed The Speed Of Ninety Miles Per Hour While Being Pursued By A  Law Enforcement Vehicle

Sponsor: Billy Gaskill (D-41), 870-239-4383, billy.gaskill@arkansashouse.org

Purpose: To add a strict liability trigger to the felony fleeing statute, Ark. Code Ann. 5-24-125 (Supp. 2009), by making any fleeing from law enforcement at speeds of ninety m.p.h. or faster a felony regardless of other attendant circumstances.

Pros for Average Arkansans: Not much from a safety standpoint.  I mean, I doubt the “average” Arkansan is likely to actually commit this felony, so the only real benefit is that it might have is if you believe that having the law on the books is like to deter someone in the midst of fleeing from speeding up to 90 m.p.h.  I suppose there is also a judicial-economy benefit in that having this law means that prosecutors will not have to satisfy the “circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to human life” condition of A.C.A. 5-24-125(a).

Cons for Average Arkansans: Hard to say without some sense of how many people flee from the police each year at speeds of 90 m.p.h. or faster and are not subsequently found to have violated subsection 125(a).  My guess is that that number is pretty low, however, so I don’t think we’re suddenly going to see a ton of extra prison beds needed based on this amendment.

Recommendations: Ideally, if the goal is really public safety, I’d like to see this as “exceeds the posted speed limit by twenty (20) or more miles per hour.”  Reason being, very, very few people are going to hit 90 m.p.h. in a residential area, but there’s no denying that 75 in a residential area is pretty darned dangerous.  Conversely, traffic on the interstates frequently moves at speeds approaching 90 and is not per se unsafe.

Official BHR Position: Support, with recommendations.