Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam has signed into law a bill that for the first time would require law enforcement officials to arrest drivers involved in serious automobile accidents who don’t have a valid driver’s license and proof of insurance.
Sponsored by Rep. Joe Carr, (R-Lascassas), the so-called “Ricky Otts Act” was inspired by a 2010 accident when Otts was killed on his motorcycle by a man driving an SUV. The SUV driver did not have a driver’s license or proof of insurance at the time of the accident and only received only a misdemeanor citation for failing to drive without proper documentation. The driver was also suspected of being an illegal alien, but law enforcement officials can only check someone’s legal status after they are arrested.
Under HB 2466, instead of issuing a citation, law enforcement officials would be required to arrest such drivers in accidents that resulted in serious bodily harm or the death of the other driver.
The Otts law is just one of several proposals relating to immigrants and driving that state lawmakers have been weighing.
Carr has also introduced a companion bill, HB 2678, which would categorize as flight risks all drivers arrested following an accident who are illegal aliens. Judicial action would then be required to set higher bail amounts. Immigration groups have objected to the bill, saying it unnecessarily penalizes illegal aliens who may have jobs and a family and are not likely to flee the state.
Also, last week the state Senate approved SB 2604, sponsored by Sen. Mae Beavers, (R-Mt. Juliet), with an amendment that would give judicial officials discretion to set higher bail amounts as opposed to making it mandatory.
It is now up to the House and Senate to see if they can come to agreement on these bills.