HOUSE CRIMINAL JUSTICE 12/7/2005
Good Morning Mr. Chairman and Committee members. I want to thank you once again for allowing me the opportunity to speak on behalf of my son Justin McWilliams and House Bill 155, The Justin McWilliams “Justice for Justin” Act.
As you may recall, on the early morning of April 7, 2002, Justin’s father and I received that phone call that is every parent’s worse nightmare. A nurse at Health Central Hospital was calling to inform us that Justin had been involved in a serious accident and that we needed to get to the hospital immediately.
Our son Justin McWilliams, who was 20-years old, was killed as he was exiting a party in a pasture in Winter Garden, Florida. After running our son completely over, the driver left the scene, returning some time later. Charges were subsequently filed for Leaving the Scene of an Accident with a Fatality, only to have the charge dismissed in March 2003, for what was termed a legal “loophole” in the Florida Statutes. Apparently, it was determined that Chapter 316, State Uniform Traffic Rules, don’t apply to private property.
Ladies and Gentlemen, while the months and years have passed, our feelings remain the same. When you hit someone with your vehicle, you should stop. It is the right thing to do. If you don’t stop, there should be consequences. House Bill 155 simply says that when you hit someone with your vehicle on public or private property, causing injury or death, you are required to stop, or there will be consequences.
As Justin’s mother I am actively seeking support of this Bill not only on behalf of our son and our family and friends, but on behalf of other families who have suffered the loss of a child or loved one as a result of a hit and run accident.
As I said repeatedly during the 2005 Legislative Session, I am not a lobbyist nor a politician. I am a mother who is trying to teach our children right from wrong. Nevertheless, it was and continues to be incomprehensible to me that you can run someone over with your vehicle and escape any type of accountability merely because it occurred on private property.
That being said, rather then remain consumed in anger and sadness, we have chosen to move in a more positive direction in Justin’s memory. I am doing exactly what we he would expect me to do as his mother. Work hard to right this wrong. Please support House Bill 155, The Justin McWilliams “Justice for Justin” Act and help me to close this unfortunate “loophole” in the Florida Statutes.