New laws fill Nevada's gaps

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On Jan. 10, 2002, Gary Breckenridge didn't have a chance as he drove home to Mound House along Highway 50 East near Deer Run Road.

According to Nevada Highway Patrol reports, Claudia Y. Guevara-De Ontiveros was westbound when she attempted to pass a U-Haul on the shoulder and lost control. Her 1998 Ford Expedition careened across four lanes into Breckenridge's path. He was killed instantly.

Guevara-De Ontiveros and her two young sons sustained minor injuries.

Troopers estimated her speed at more than 80 mph in a 50 mph zone. The driver of the U-Haul said the Dayton mother was obviously in a hurry, weaving in and out of traffic prior to the collision.

Despite the speed, Guevara-De Ontiveros' actions did not constitute criminal negligence. She never got a speeding ticket.

Yet Breckenridge, a husband and father of three, was dead.

"She didn't get (expletive,)" said Cory Breckenridge, still angry at the loss of his father. "After promising, the district attorney still didn't do anything."

Breckenridge's family protested the lack of charges. How could their father and husband be killed and no one be held responsible? The unfairness of it all settled in with the intense grief.

"I just doesn't go away," said wife Mary Breckenridge. "Even talking about it now the hair on the back of my neck is standing up."

District Attorney Noel Waters said he regretted the position he was in. Although Guevara-De Ontiveros' actions were careless, they didn't rise to the level of criminal. There just wasn't enough to charge.

"Her speed is problematic. The question is whether speeding in and of itself, and the resulting collision, is enough to reach criminal negligence," Water's commented at the time.

This year, Gov. Kenny Guinn and the Nevada Legislature decided it was. Guinn signed into law a charge of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter.

Beginning Saturday, the crime can be applied to future accidents.

According to AB295, drivers who cause the death of another person through simple negligence, such as talking on a cell phone, eating, speeding or failing to stop at a stop sign, could be charged. The penalties include putting the incident on the driver's record indicating an accident that caused death and suspending a license for one year. A conviction also could result in a sentence of up to six months in jail.

This was the fourth time the proposal came before the Legislature.

The District Attorney's Association, among others, was instrumental in getting the bill passed.

"It was really unsatisfactory not to be able to account for the death of a human being," Waters said.

• • •

Misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter is among several news laws which take effect Saturday with the intention of filling voids in Nevada's legal tomes.

Others include:

• AB256

Creates a felony of vehicular homicide for drivers who are convicted of driving under the influence at least three times and then get behind the wheel again while drunk and cause a death. The offenses are not restricted to offenses committed within the immediately preceding seven years.

• AB421

Provides that once person has been convicted of a felony for operating vehicle or vessel while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance causing impairment, any subsequent violation is treated as a felony.

• AB381

This amendment authorizes the use of the single center lane when making a left-turn onto the highway. After making a left-hand turn onto the highway, a vehicle must not travel more than 50 feet in the center lane before merging. The proposal was originally made by Carson City student Sean Carter during the 2003 session.

• AB465

The amendment states a person shall not intentionally allow a child to be present in any vehicle or upon any premises where a controlled substance other than marijuana is being used, bartered, supplied, dispensed, given away, administered in violation, manufactured or compounded.

If the violation does not cause substantial bodily harm or death the offender is guilty of a Category C felony, substantial bodily harm is a B felony, if the violation causes death the violation is murder.

For Detective Dena Lacy, who works on crimes against children for the Carson City Sheriff's Department, AB465 is a blessing.

She said in the past when deputies would enter a home where obvious drug use had occurred and children were present, there wasn't much legally that could be done to address the issue. The parent or caretaker would be arrested on the drug charges and child and family services would be notified.

This new law enhances the penalty, and the additional wake-up call could possibly help break the cycle which can turn a toddler into a teenage drug user.

"This will give us more tools to help these children," she said. "I really like this law."

n Contact reporter F.T. Norton at or 881-1213.


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