SENATOR CAROZZA’S BILL, WADE’S LAW, RECEIVES SENATE HEARING
Senator Mary Beth Carozza’s Senate Bill 17— Criminal Law – Life–Threatening Injury Involving a Motor Vehicle or Vessel – Criminal Negligence (Wade’s Law) was heard in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on January 19. This legislation would establish the offense of a life-threatening injury by motor vehicle or vessel as criminal negligence with imprisonment for 18 months and/or a fine of $5,000.
“Current law provides that manslaughter by vehicle by criminally negligent driving is a misdemeanor and subject to a maximum three-year imprisonment and/or a $5,000 fine. Yet if the victim is maimed, paralyzed, or suffers some other life-threatening injury, that same criminally negligent driver is only liable for a $500 fine. Senate Bill 17 provides a more just penalty,” Senator Carozza said in her testimony.
At the hearing Senator Carozza spoke about a case from her community involving two Worcester County road workers, Scott Tatterson and Wade Pusey, who were struck by a criminally negligent driver. The violent crash occurred on February 22, 2016, and left Mr. Tatterson dead and Mr. Pusey with several life-threatening and life-sustaining injuries. This case was brought to Senator Carozza’s attention by the Worcester County State’s Attorney’s Office after it was clear that the only offense the driver could be charged with was a motor vehicle citation carrying a maximum penalty of $500. In 2017 as a State Delegate, Senator Carozza first introduced Wade’s Law as House Bill 585, and it unanimously passed in the House of Delegates. In 2019, she reintroduced Wade’s Law as Senate Bill 248 and it unanimously passed the Senate but did not advance in the House before adjournment that year.
Joining Senator Carozza in testifying as the lead proponent in support of Senate Bill 17 was Wicomico Deputy State’s Attorney Bill McDermott, who has continuously made the case for the passage of this legislation and first brought Wade’s case to Carozza’s attention when he worked for Worcester County. Mr. McDermott emphasized the fact that Senate Bill 17 is simply building on existing law to create a more just penalty for the crime of criminally negligent driving causing a life-threatening injury.
Also joining Senator Carozza this year was Je’ani Lyles, who also suffered both life-threatening and life-sustaining injuries as the result of a criminally negligent driver on June 18, 2018. Je’Ani’s mother, Carla Ortiz, described not only the horror of the crash with Je’Ani suffering a severing of her T8 vertebrae, multiple surgeries, and paralysis from the chest down but pleaded for a more just penalty to hold those who are criminally negligent responsible for their actions.
“Let this be the year that we see Wade’s Law all the way through to final passage… My parents always taught me that if you believe in a just cause or action, then you keep working it, not for yourself, but for people like Wade Pusey and his family, Je’Ani Lyles and her mother, Carla, and for all the unnamed victims. We are completely committed to seeing this through for the sake of future victims. You keep fighting the good fight.”
Senate Bill 17 has the support of the Maryland’s State’s Attorneys’ Association, the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association, the Maryland Sheriffs’ Association, and ABATE, Maryland’s only motorcycle rights organization.