From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
March 4, 1997
Contact: Rick Svataro, (512) 463-0113

'Lori's Law' Passes Texas Senate, Sent to House with Amendment for Law to Take Immediate Effect.

AUSTIN, Tx. -- Legislation by State Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) that would close a loophole in Texas law that prevented the prosecution of a 16-year-old driver responsible for the hit-and-run death of 11-year-old Lori Ann Braden of Houston unanimously passed the Texas Senate today. The legislation, which was amended on the floor of the Senate to take immediate effect upon enactment, would revise Texas statutes to allow for the full prosecution of juveniles who commit hit-and-run offenses.

"I am very gratified that the members of the Texas Senate gave their approval to 'Lori's Law' today," said Senator Ellis. "I think we are sending a clear message to juveniles that they will be held accountable for their behavior."

Under current law, a juvenile who is found guilty of a hit-and-run offense can only be fined $100. Ellis hopes to fix the "glitch" to allow for the full prosecution of juveniles who violate the failure-to-render-aid statute. Representatives of the City of Houston Victims Assistance Office, the Harris County District Attorney's Office and authors of the 1995 rewrite of the Texas Juvenile Code have all recommended passage of "Lori's Law."

"'Lori's Law' would close a loophole that allowed the 16-year-old driver responsible for Lori Ann Braden's death to go unprosecuted," said Senator Ellis. "Although the young driver had a juvenile record involving drugs, stolen cars and evading arrests, he was released the same day he was picked up because juveniles cannot be prosecuted for violations of the motor vehicle code."

Senator Chris Harris (R-Arlington), who worked with Senator Ellis to develop the bill, added an amendment to the legislation which would allow the law to take immediate effect upon enactment.

"A situation like this, where a young girl has lost her life and a juvenile faces no consequences under the law, is clearly not the intent of the Texas Legislature," said Senator Harris. "I think it sends the wrong message to all parties -- especially juveniles -- about responsibility for personal behavior."

In April 1995, Lori Ann Braden was hit by an automobile in northeast Houston as she crossed the street. The 16-year-old driver fled the scene but was chased down and held by witnesses until police arrived. Although the young driver had a lengthy juvenile record, he was released the day he was picked up. After the traffic incident, Lori Ann lay in a coma for four days before her death.

"We have had several tragic cases in this county in which citizens have been seriously injured or killed in vehicular accidents, and juveniles have fled the scene," said Harris County District Attorney John B. Holmes, Jr. "It is impossible to explain in any satisfactory manner to the families of such victims why a juvenile cannot face prosecution when an adult would."

The legislation now goes to the House for consideration.