New law leads to stiffer punishment for hit-and-run drivers

by: Leslie Coursey Updated:

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JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. - Steven York worked with Danny Stein at the Flying Iguana in Neptune Beach.  He's having a hard time understanding how a driver could run over his friend on the Fourth of July and not stop to help him.

"Nobody deserves to go out like that," said York.  "Especially Danny. It was a really violent way to end a really positive life."

Now police are looking for a suspect -- the driver of a black Mercedes. 

Action News asked law and safety expert Dale Carson why it's so common for drivers involved in crashes like that to leave the scene.

"In many cases, they've been drinking," he said.

He said the penalties for being involved in a deadly crash are more severe if the driver is drunk.  But a new law that went into effect July 1 looks to close that loophole by imposing a mandatory minimum sentence of four years in prison on anyone convicted of leaving the scene of a deadly crash.

"It forces someone to realize that if they flee, they're going to go to prison for four years, if they're convicted," said Carson.

York hopes the driver is caught soon.  And he hopes that person realizes he or she has taken a good person away from a community that loved him.

"He was just so full of soul," said York. "He was Jax Beach in a nutshell."

Jacksonville Beach Police Department officials said they have some solid leads, but they've made no arrests.

A celebration of life service for Stein will be held Tuesday at 11 a.m. at the Hardage-Giddens Chapel at 4115 Hendricks Ave.