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Governor Scott Signs Legislation to Protect Florida's Families

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Tuesday, Governor Rick Scott announced he has signed Senate Bill 102, which creates the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act relating to leaving the scene of an accident.

This bill includes increasing the punishment for leaving the scene of a crash resulting in serious injury to a person, imposing a mandatory minimum term for imprisonment of four years for a driver convicted of leaving the scene of a crash resulting in the death of a person, increasing the mandatory minimum term of imprisonment from two to four years for a driver convicted of leaving the scene of a crash resulting in the death of a person while driving under the influence, and imposing a minimum driver license revocation period of at least three years.

Governor Scott said, “The hearts and prayers of Ann and I go out to the Cohen family, and it’s in Aaron’s name that we hope to further protect Florida families with Senate Bill 102, which will create the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act. No one should have to suffer the loss of a loved one due to reckless driving, and with this important law, we’ll be more effective in protecting families.”

Patty Cohen, widow of Aaron Cohen, said, “The entire Cohen family and I are extremely thankful that Governor Scott will be signing the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act into law. We are hopeful that out of our family’s tragedy, we have made a big step towards safer roads and a safer community for our children. While nothing will bring Aaron back, it gives us comfort to know that the change we have made may prevent other families from suffering as ours did. We are incredibly honored to have this very important law in his name.”

Attorney General Pam Bondi said, “I thank Governor Rick Scott for signing the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act, which will crack down on hit-and-runs, and I am grateful to Patty Cohen for her bravery in transforming her tragedy into action to protect others. Floridians deserve to be safe while enjoying their communities.

Mickey Witte, founder of the Aaron Cohen Law Initiative, said, “As a triathlete, I run and ride my bicycle often, so it's obvious that I would have a vested interest in road safety. By signing the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act into law, the governor shows his support for something that signifies that as a society, we are sending the message that doing the right thing - staying on the scene when you've hit someone while driving - is something that we as Floridians do and encourage others to do in order to protect our community.”

Senator Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, Senate bill sponsor, said, “Creating the appropriate penalties for hit-and-run drivers is the right thing to do for our state. For far too long victims have suffered because the law was not on their side, but today Governor Scott signed the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act, and that all changes.”

Senator John Thrasher said, “Florida should not have laws that encourage heartless behavior and harm our citizens. That is why today I am proud to support Governor Scott and the cracking down on the laws against hit-and-run drivers.”

Senator Joe Negron said, “It is time to close the gap that allows drunk drivers to leave the scene of the crime and not face their full punishment. This legislation will make our roads safer for everyone, and I am grateful to Governor Scott for signing this bill.”

Senator Rene Garcia said, “Leaving the scene of a crime is one of the worst things that can happen to a hit-and-run victim. I’m glad to see that Governor Scott has joined to fight to make sure that victims of this terrible crime see justice and that the appropriate penalties are given.”

Senator Anitere Flores said, “Florida families deserve to feel safe on the roads while out enjoying Florida’s communities. Governor Scott’s action on this transforming legislation shows his commitment to keeping Florida at a 43 year crime low.”

Senator Jeff Brandes said, “As we share the road with bike riders and runners they deserve to feel safe. This bill eliminates the incentive for motorists to leave the scene of an accident, and I thank Governor Scott for his support in helping to protect victims of this terrible crime.”

Senator Greg Evers said, “Increasing the penalty for leaving the scene of a crime is a great step forward in making Floridians safer on our roads. I am extremely grateful to Governor Scott for signing this into law.”

Representative Steve Crisafulli, Speaker-Designate, said, "Our state must protect families, and this good legislation will provide a better sense of justice to the victims of hit-and-run crimes by stiffening penalties against those who would commit such crimes. I thank Governor Scott for his support and dedication in helping to keep Floridians safer."

Representative Dana Young said, “For far too long there has been a gap in our justice system, and this bill will put an end to it. I applaud Governor Scott for signing this important legislation and making our communities safer.”

Representative Jose Oliva said, “It is my hope that this legislation motivates Floridians to hold each other accountable, and to make our roads safer for families. I would like to express my gratitude to Governor Scott for supporting this important legislation today.”

Representative Eddy Gonzalez said, “This bill will help our law enforcement officers keep our roads and communities safer for families. We worked hard to create the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act, and I thank Governor Scott for his support on this legislation.”

Representative Jeanette Nuñez said, “Cracking down on the mandatory minimum sentences is the right thing to do for Florida families. I thank Governor Scott for his support on the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act.”

Representative Erik Fresen said, “We need harsher punishments for those who break the law and end a life. I was proud to vote for this bill during session, and I am glad to support Governor Scott as he signs the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act in law.”

Representative Jose Felix Diaz said, “I appreciate Governor Scott’s action on the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act. Unfortunately, hit-and-runs are a very real problem in South Florida and across our great State. Thankfully, we have now fixed an unintended mistake which was allowing drivers to flee the scene of a crime. Our roads are safer today because of Governor Scott's leadership.”

Representative Frank Artiles said, “Too many lives have been lost because of reckless driving and motorists leaving the scene of an accident. I would like to thank Governor Scott for signing this legislation that will make our communities safer and discourage this horrible behavior.”

Representative Bryan Nelson, House bill sponsor, said, “Now pedestrians, bike riders and motorcyclists can feel more at ease on our roads as we crack down on hit-and-run drivers. I was proud to sponsor this bill in the House and I am glad that Governor Scott supports this bill and has now signed it into law.”

Representative Dennis Baxley said, “I applaud Governor Scott’s leadership in protecting Florida families. This bill will ensure that a harsher punishment is given to those who endanger others by leaving the scene of a crash.”

Representative Halsey Beshears said, “This bill will help hold those responsible by removing the gap in punishments for leaving the scene of a crime. Our law enforcement officers will be able to better protect our communities and those traveling on the road on motorcycles or bicycles. Governor Scott has worked to keep Florida at a historic crime low, and this bill will continue to help carry on this mission.”

Tim Bustos, Executive Director, The Florida Bicycle Association said, "The Florida Bicycle Association is delighted that Governor Scott is signing SB 102, also known as the ‘Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act.’ For too long now, Florida has had one of the highest bicycle and pedestrian crash rates in the nation, and an inordinate number of these crashes involve motorists that leave the scene of a crash without rendering aid or assistance. We are hopeful this new legislation will act as a deterrent for motorists who may otherwise leave the scene after causing a crash, and will act as an incentive to stay at the scene. We would like to thank Governor Scott for realizing the significance of this bill by signing it. We would also like to thank Senator Diaz de la Portilla for introducing this bill in the Senate, and Representative Nelson for shepherding the companion bill through the House. Not only will this bill help to dramatically improve bicycle and pedestrian safety, it will also improve the safety for all road users.”

Kristen Allen, State Victim Services Manager, Mothers Against Drunk Driving said, “MADD believes that all impaired driving violations resulting in death or serious bodily injury, as well as leaving the scene of a crash, should be felonies. The penalties for these offenses should be equal. That’s why we strongly supported the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act (SB 102) to make leaving the scene of a crash have a minimum mandatory sentence of 4 years to match Florida’s DUI manslaughter minimum mandatory sentence. With the passage of this life saving legislation, our hope is drivers will be compelled to stay at the scene and render aid and not be rewarded to flee anymore.”

Springfield Police Chief Philip Thorne, President of the Florida Police Chiefs Association said, “Florida's police chiefs thank Governor Scott for signing this bill into law today. Florida will not tolerate those who leave the scene of a serious accident, and this law will give our law enforcement officers additional tools to combat this serious issue.”

Sheriff Grady Judd, President of the Florida Sheriffs Association, said, “The Florida Sheriffs Association supported SB 102; we do not want to encourage suspects to leave the scene of a crash because it’s penalty was greater than DUI Manslaughter. This law creates consistency among law violation penalties.”

Col. David Brierton, Director of the Florida Highway Patrol said, “This law is intended to make people think twice before they leave the scene of a crash. By toughening penalties for hit and run drivers, Florida is sending a strong message to motorists to do the right thing and stay at a crash scene.”


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