Lawmakers debate harsher penalties for hit-and-run offenders

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Families of victims who have been killed in hit-and-run accidents – including several along the Waianae Coast's dangerous main thoroughfare – are calling for stricter penalties for those who flee the scene.

State lawmakers are listening: a pair of recent bills introduced in both the state House and Senate propose extended prison terms for offenders who are convicted of negligent homicide after leaving an accident scene without rendering aid to those injured.

Right now, negligent homicide is a Class B Felony with a maximum sentence of 10 years.

"This enhances it to the full 20 years which is a Class Felony A. We just want to say enough is enough and we just want to enhance penalties for these kinds of offenses," said State Rep. Henry Aquino, chair of the House Transportation Committee.

SB2582 and HB2588 have been nicknamed "Kaulana's Bills," a tribute to 19-year-old Kaulana Werner, the Kamehameha Schools student who was killed in a hit-and-run accident near his Nanakuli home back in April 2016.

The living room walls in Ed and Paula Werner's home are covered with memories of their late son.

"Our family is mourning every day. Without no closure its all just up in the air. We don't want any other family go through what we've been going through for two years," said Ed Werner, Kaulana's father.

The driver, 23-year-old Myisha Lee Armitage, faces charges of first-degree negligent homicide and leaving the scene of a fatal crash.

She pleaded not guilty at her arraignment in April 2017 and was scheduled to face a judge in September, but the trial was pushed back to January 2018 and then again to May.

Armitage remains free on $11,000 bail.

Just last month, 21-year-old Jonah Ragsdale of Maili and 23-year-old Daniel Mole of Nanakuli were killed in a hit-and-run crash near Makua Beach.

21-year old Sierra Burns was charged with two counts of negligent homicide, two counts of failing to render aid and one count of causing an accident involving serious bodily injury. Police believe alcohol was a factor in the February 19 crash.

"I think for our coast, it's this hurt that happens when a family is afflicted and then they feel like there's no justice. And then they go years not knowing," said State Rep. Andria Tupola, R-Nanakuli.

The Werners hope this change will make people think twice and help save other families from feeling the same heartache.

They say they're looking forward to the day Kaulana's Bills become Kaulana's Law.

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