Bill delivers harsher penalties


For driving while suspended, revoked

Perhaps as a response to the Culver area crash in November 2010 that resulted in the death of one man and injury to 11 others, the Oregon Legislature has passed a bill that strengthens the penalty for a second driving while suspended or revoked charge.

On June 13, Gov. John Kitzhaber signed House Bill 2384, which "authorizes civil and criminal forfeiture of motor vehicle if person is convicted of certain offenses related to driving while suspended or revoked."

"In 2011, there was a lot of interest in the Jefferson County area, after the (Andrea) Orozco accident out by Culver, for introducing legislation that would deal a little more harshly with people that are caught driving while suspended," said Rep. John Huffman, R-The Dalles.

In the accident in question, Andrea Orozco was driving west on Highland Lane in a Ford Expedition just after 7 p.m. on Nov. 20, 2010, and failed to stop at the stop sign for Highway 361. Orozco, whose license was suspended, struck a Toyota Corolla driven by Linda Ross, of Metolius, whose husband Leonard Franklin Ross, 73, died from injuries sustained in the crash.

Linda Ross and the 10 people in the Ford, including seven children ranging in age from 2 to 14, Orozco, and two adult women, were also injured in the crash, and transported to area hospitals.

Ultimately, Orozco was sentenced to four months in jail for third-degree assault and three counts of recklessly endangering another person — all involving children.

She did not face charges for the death of Leonard Ross or the injury to his wife, since Oregon law would have required Orozco to have been acting recklessly, with behavior rising to the level of "criminal negligence," rather than just "common negligence."

Because of the public outrage following the case, Huffman attempted to introduce a bill. "In 2011, I worked hard to get a bill going, and received a lot of encouragement from committee members, but just never got traction."

However, Huffman believes that the House Judiciary Committee members remembered his efforts, and introduced a similar bill in January.

"Sometimes planting a seed is all it takes and it's not unusual to see a bill a session or two later that does what you had worked on," he said. "The same thing happened on my idea for returning veterans to take their military training to an Oregon community college or university and turn it into college credit. In 2011, we passed (Senate Bill) 275, which put the idea into law."

Besides authorizing forfeiture of a vehicle, House Bill 2384 increases the penalty for a second or subsequent conviction of driving while suspended or revoked. A second or subsequent conviction is now punishable by a maximum of 30 days' imprisonment, a $1,250 fine, or both.