02/02/2001

Officers learn to act, not wait in hostage crises
[Charleston, SC]

Gilbert Gallegos
January 30, 2001, Tuesday
Copyright 2001 Albuquerque Tribune
Albuquerque Tribune
January 30, 2001, Tuesday (SANTA FE, N.M.) -- A Carlsbad lawmaker wants to put the brakes on drivers who flee the police, putting others in danger.

Rep. John Heaton, a Democrat, told a House committee Monday that it should be a felony for drivers to recklessly take off when officers try to stop them.

Heaton's legislation would create the crime of "aggravated fleeing of an officer," a fourth-degree felony punishable by 18 months in prison.

His bill which he said was suggested by a Carlsbad police officer has the backing of sheriffs' and police associations.

But the legislation bumped into some bipartisan criticism from lawmakers who said there are already enough laws on the books to deal with the problem.

They include the misdemeanors of reckless driving and resisting a police officer, and since courts have said a motor vehicle can be a deadly weapon the more serious felonies of aggravated assault or aggravated battery.

Drivers who try to get away from police are invariably guilty of something else, said Rep. Daniel Foley, a Roswell Republican.

He said he doubted that creating a new felony would have the desired effect of making them think twice about fleeing.

The committee temporarily set the bill aside to discuss changes that Martinez and other lawmakers said might make it more acceptable.

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