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Bill to increase penalty for hit-and-run moves forward

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A small victory for family members of hit and run victims. Monday a Senate committee sent Senate Bill 275 to the full Senate for a vote.

It would increase the penalty for drivers who hit and kill someone and leave the scene.

Emotional testimony was heard on Monday. Right now, if a driver leaves the scene of a crash and someone ends up dying, they get the same charge as if the victim had only been injured. Family members say that's not good enough.

The parents of Courtney Griffin, who was run down by Gabrielle Nestande in May of 2011, testified before the criminal justice committee in favor of Senate Bill 275.

The wife of Mark Gobble, who was killed in a hit and run in June of 2012 also spoke.

Currently the charge of failure to stop and render aid is a third degree felony. It carries a penalty of two to 10 years in prison. Senate Bill 275 asks that the offense be changed to a 2nd degree felony when a death is involved. The punishment would then be up to 20 years in prison.

This isn't just an Austin problem. FOX 7 spoke to a woman whose daughter was killed in San Antonio.

"You leave for a reason if you don't have a reason to flee you stay and talk to the police and we should not reward people who get away," said Carol Thompson.

This bill is really aimed at drunk drivers. If a drunk driver hits and kills someone and drives off, they would be charged with the 3rd degree felony of failure to stop and render aid. Compare that to if they'd stayed--intoxication manslaughter which is a 2nd degree felony.

To the victims' family members increasing failure to stop and render aid would level the playing field.

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