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How weak California laws make it impossible to punish street racers adequately

How weak California laws make it impossible to punish street racers adequately
A California Highway Patrol car on the lookout for street racers in South Los Angeles on June 3. (Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: The real problem in the prosecution of fatal street racing isn’t the difficulty of proving murder, but in other deficiencies in the law.

As noted in the article, it is very difficult to prove murder in these cases. But putting murder aside, the more common laws to combat fatal street racing, such as vehicular manslaughter, are woefully inadequate.

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The maximum punishment for gross vehicular manslaughter is only six years in prison. And after considering good behavior credits and Proposition 57’s early release for nonviolent offenders (yes, vehicular manslaughter is considered a nonviolent offense under the law), the maximum any person would actually spend in custody for killing someone during a street race is three years.

Furthermore, prosecutors can no longer charge enhancements for seriously injuring or killing additional victims after a recent state Supreme Court decision says that current law prohibits it.

No wonder victims’ families feel let down by the system. Current laws need to be strengthened and punishments increased, but given the current political environment in Sacramento, that isn’t likely to happen any time soon.

Robert Mestman, Huntington Beach

The writer is a prosecutor in Orange County.

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To the editor: Many auto companies use TV ads that show vehicles racing and performing maneuvers that violate the California vehicle code. One manufacturer’s ads tout a vehicle as a “muscle car.”

Are we to pretend there is no connection?

One suggestion would be in addition to a longer prison sentence for the driver, the car in question should be destroyed and melted down to create something useful.

Jon Hartmann, Los Angeles

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