Driving is a get out of jail for murder card in the Bay Area

The Center for Investigative Journalism confirms something many of us already suspect. The Berkeley based non-profit news agency analyzed five years worth of data from 434 pedestrian fatalities in Alameda, Contra Costa, Santa Clara, San Mateo and San Francisco counties.

Sixty percent of the 238 motorists found to be at fault or suspected of a crime faced no criminal charges.

When drivers did face criminal charges, punishment often was light. Licenses rarely were taken away. Of those charged, less than 60 percent had their driving privileges suspended or revoked for even one day. Forty percent of those convicted faced no more than a day in jail; 13 drivers were jailed for more than a year. By contrast, those charged in accidental shootings often serve lengthy jail terms.

District attorneys fail to charge the drivers, saying juries sympathize with the motorists. Police occupied with other crimes don’t track down hit-and-run drivers. The state Department of Motor Vehicles doesn’t always pull licenses, at times hindered by the morass of paperwork required to get information from courts and police departments.

Echoing a common sentiment among prosecutors, San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said jurors see the cases as tragic accidents with no guilty party: “They’re all thinking, ‘There but for the grace of God go I.’ ”

Read more at CIR: Bay Area drivers who kill pedestrians rarely face punishment, analysis finds. H/T Mike S in Belmont, CA.

In other news, it appears a killer in Los Angeles received the memo that’s best to kill with your vehicle if you want to get away with the crime. The theme of murder by car is even occasionally used in TV crime shows.