Change sentencing laws, bail amounts and statute of limitations for a driver of a vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury and/or death to a person, and flees the scene of the accident.

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The current law Vehicle Code Section 20001 Duty to Stop at Scene of Accident has a minimum sentence of 90 days in a county jail or a maximum sentence of four years in state prison.  The fine for this charge is a minimum of $1,000.00 dollars, nor more than $10,000.00 dollars, or by both that imprisonment and fine.  However, the court, in the interests of justice and for reasons stated in the record, may reduce or eliminate the minimum imprisonment required by this paragraph.

Heather Brents has been charged with Vehicle Code Section 20001, subdivision (a),  a felony, in that on or about May 21, 2012, in the County of Riverside, State of California, she did willfully, unlawfully, and knowingly , being a driver of a vehicle involved in an accident resulting in injury and death to a person other than herself, fail, refuse , and neglect to give to the injured person and to a traffic and police officer at the scene of the accident her name and address, the registration number of her  vehicle, and the name of the owner of said  vehicle; to  exhibit  her operator’s license;  to render reasonable assistance to the injured person; and perform the duties specified in Vehicle Code section (s) 20003 and 20004. It is alleged that the accident involved in the above offense resulted in death to Zia Hoyos. 

 

Heather Brents’ bail was initially set at $5,000.00.  She was released after posting $500.00.

Russell Stienecker, committed a violation of Penal Code section 32, a felony, in that on or about May 21, 2012, in the County of Riverside, State of California, he did willfully and unlawfully, having knowledge that the crime of hit and run from collision causing death, a felony, in violation of section 20001 (b)(2) of the Vehicle Code of the State of California  had been committed by Heather Brents, did harbor, conceal and aid said Heather Brents, with the intent that she might avoid and escape from arrest, trial, conviction, and punishment for said felony.

 

Penal Code Section 32 holds a maximum sentence of 3 years in state prison.

Russell Stienecker’s bail was initially set at $5,000.00.  He was released after posting $500.00

A bail review hearing was set and the bail amounts were increased to $75,000.00, the maximum bail amount for the charge of felony hit and run for Heather and $37,500.00, half of the maximum bail amount for the charge of Penal Code section 32, a felony, for Russell.  They both bailed out again.  She posted $7,500.00 and he posted $3,750.00.  It’s a sad situation when the defendants have the right to post bail for their freedom when a life was taken.  To sum it up, they both bought their freedom!

Zia Hoyos was 16 years old when she was allegedly struck and killed by Heather Brents.  She was a beautiful girl with hopes and dreams of becoming a successful adult, but due to the fact of the situation that occurred on May 21, 2012, those dreams will never be achieved.  She wanted to study psychology and did mention the thought of joining the Air Force, after finishing high school. She loved to sing and dance, performing with a local theatre group out of Palm Springs, California for several shows, at the age of 12.  She was very good with children, sometimes helping with Sunday school out of her local church that she attended, Streams in the Desert, Praise Chapel. We miss her so badly and the pain we suffer everyday will never get better, knowing the fact that Heather Brents, who allegedly killed Zia by hitting her with Brents father's vehicle, and Heather’s father, Russell Steinecker, helped to conceal the fact of death, are free on bail.  They will get to spend the holiday with their loved ones, while Zia lies in a grave, never able to spend a holiday with her loved ones again.  The amount of time these crimes hold is not sufficient to the lifelong pain that our family suffers and will continue to suffer throughout the judicial process and beyond.

Looking through penal codes, one stood out to me.  Penal Code Section 113: Forging, stealing, mutilating, and falsifying judicial and public records and documents carries more of a sentence and a fine than hitting, killing someone and leaving the scene of a crime!  Penal Code Section 113 is a felony and a person who commits this crime faces 5 years in prison and a fine of $75,000.00 dollars!  These types of flaws in our system make people not properly accountable for their actions!  The penalties need to fit the crime! 

Examples from some states and the penalties the crime holds are as follows:

Alabama: Felony hit and run carries a sentence of 1 to 10 years and a fine between $500.00 dollars and $15,000.00 dollars.

Alaska: Felony hit and run carries a sentence of 1 to 99 years, case law states that vehicular homicide can be criminally negligent homicide, manslaughter, or second-degree murder, depending on the risk created and level of awareness.

Arizona: Felony hit and run has no statute of limitations.  Different classifications of felony hit and run carry the following sentences: Negligent homicide carries a sentence of 1 to 8 years, manslaughter carries a sentence of 7 to 21 years, and second- degree murder carries a sentence of 10 to 22 years, depending which charge applies.

Iowa:  Felony hit and run carries a sentence of 1 to 25 years.

Kansas:  Felony hit and run carries a sentence of up to 14 years and a fine of up to $300,000.00 dollars depending on the severity and whether alcohol or drugs were involved. 

Heather Brents was allegedly drunk the night she hit and killed Zia and admitted it to investigators, but is not being charged accordingly due to not being tested for alcohol levels in her system.  She did not come forward and admit what she did.  A friend of Heathers turned her in 3 days after the accident, which would make it hard to obtain alcohol levels from that evening.  Russell Stienecker, Heather Brents’ father, attempted to cover up his daughter’s alleged crime by removing the grill of the vehicle and allegedly disposing of the evidence.  This man, a Naval member, participating in this crime, really took me back!   We as a society need to come together to push for stiffer penalties for hit and runs, alcohol related or not.  The punishment needs to fit the crime!  There should be no statute of limitations for crimes of hit and run and the bail amount should be set at a maximum amount of $500,000.00 for hit and run causing personal injury and/or causing death, unless proven accidental.  The amount of time for felony hit and run causing death should be 20 years minimum and the maximum 30 years, with no alcohol involvement. I would like to propose a new law for presentation, ZIA’S LAW, for the upcoming ballot in 2014.  A special circumstance law that includes the following:  When a person or persons charged with Penal Code 32 harbor, conceal and aid with the intent that a defendant might avoid and escape arrest, trial, conviction and punishment for crimes of hit and run, alcohol related or not, be charged with an additional amount of time, the minimum amount being 10 years, added to the existing maximum of 3 years for said charge.  This new law would be named, “ZIA’S LAW” and would serve as a reminder of the incident that took Zia’s life. The consequence that a person would face if a person aids and abets the crime of hit and run and the fact that a young girl’s life was taken far too soon would be a reminder to people to be more aware of their actions when they involve themselves. The hit and run occurrences in Riverside County have increased enormously within the last several years, calling attention to the problem!  Let’s put an end to this and create a safer world for us to co-exist in.  Zia would be proud if we all came together for this cause, to seek justice for many others who have had to come face to face with this situation!  Our family would like to thank you in advance for signing this petition.  We miss Zia tremendously!

 

                                                                                               Senta Florez

 

 



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