Proposed ‘Jake’s Law’ passes first hurdle in Annapolis

A Maryland House of Delegates committee gave its approval late Wednesday night to “Jake’s Law,” a proposed legislation that would increase the penalties faced by drivers found guilty of causing a serious or fatal crash while using a cellphone.

That’s the first major hurdle for the proposed legislation, named for Jake Owen, a 5-year-old who was killed in a December 2011 crash in Baltimore that was caused by a 23-year-old driver who was talking on his cellphone. The case went to trial, and the driver paid $1,000 in fines.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 18 to 3 on Wednesday to give the bill a favorable report, as long as a few amendments are made. One of the amendments will reduce the maximum amount of jail time a driver could face from three years to one year. Drivers would still face a maximum fine of $5,000.

The amended bill now heads to the House floor for a full vote in the coming days. The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee has yet to take action on similar proposed legislation.

“We think it’s a great start, but I think we still have a lot of work to do,” said Jake’s mother, Susan Yum, who has been in Annapolis every day this week to meet with lawmakers and deliver a personal note to each committee member. “We’re cautiously hopeful that we’ll get this through.”

Jenna Johnson writes about Maryland politics, including the General Assembly, the administration of Gov. Martin O'Malley and the 2014 election.
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