Letter-writing crusade pushes for Dustin’s Law
by DAVID DAVIS, Managing Editor
Feb 03, 2013 | 1812 views | 0 0 comments | 9 9 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dustin Ledford
Dustin Ledford
Kim Ledford is asking the public to write letters to Gov. Bill Haslam and state legislators in support of a law that would stiffen the penalty and change the definition of aggravated vehicular homicide.

Ledford has been working to change Tennessee Code ever since Tiffany Isaza killed her 24-year-old son, Dustin, on July 10, 2010, in a head-on collision. Most recently, Ledford asked the Cleveland City Council and Bradley County Commission for their support.

“I feel like 2013 is the year we are going to get this law passed. I feel like if we can get the letters to the governor and let him see the amount of people that support us, maybe he’ll think it is a good law and it does need to be passed,” she said in a recent interview.

“We need to flood the governor’s office with as many letters in support of this law as we can and just keep it on his mind that there is a law out there that needs to be passed.

“When Dustin was killed, I prayed that he would not have died in vain. I want what happened to Dustin to have a purpose and this is just one way, by getting this law changed, that Dustin would not have died for nothing.”

State Rep. Eric Watson introduced House Bill 1038, “Dustin’s Law,” in the 107th General Assembly on Feb. 15, 2011. The last action placed it on the House Finance Subcommittee calendar April 24, 2012.

He reintroduced Dustin’s Law in the 108th General Assembly as H.B. 0524 on Jan. 30, and Sen. Mike Bell introduced S.B 1021 in the Senate on Jan. 31.

According to the summary statement, the legislation adds vehicular homicide with a blood alcohol concentration of .20 percent or more; or vehicular homicide with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent or more and any blood concentration of methamphetamine to the definition of aggravated vehicular homicide.

Presently, a person commits the Class A felony of aggravated vehicular homicide under the following conditions: (1) The defendant has two or more prior convictions for DUI or vehicular assault;

(2) The defendant has one or more prior convictions for the offense of vehicular homicide; or

(3) There was, at the time of the offense, 0.20 percent, or more, by weight of alcohol in the defendant's blood and the defendant has one prior conviction for DUI or vehicular assault.

“You have to have a prior conviction before you get aggravated vehicular homicide. There’s something wrong with that. A vehicle’s a weapon too,” she said. “If you kill somebody with an automobile, the sentence is eight to 12 years in prison. If Dustin’s Law gets passed, that will be 16 to 20 years.”

Isaza had a blood-alcohol measurement of .24 and methamphetamine in her body.

“People, somehow, have got to get the point that they need to make wise choices and they don’t need to get behind the wheel if they’re intoxicated,” she said. “I’m going to do everything I can to try to change the law. I know I’m only one person, but with the help of friends and family and people I don’t even know, we can get it done.”

Since the death of her and Danny’s only son, Kim has worked to ensure it is done. She travels to different counties and states to speak on victim-impact panels, schools and civic organizations.

“I went to California in August to become an advocate for victims of drunk driving,” she said.

Victim-impact panels are mandatory classes for drunk drivers. Bradley County does not have a panel “— not yet, but we will have,” she said. “We’ve already got the meeting place, we’ve just got to get the judges on-board.”

Changing the law is not going to change what happened to Dustin and it is not going to give Isaza anymore time in jail. But, maybe it can prevent somebody else from the same agony, the Ledfords said.

The governor’s address is: Office of the Governor, 1st Floor, State Capitol, Nashville TN, 37243; or email: bill.haslam@tn.gov.

State Rep. Eric Watson: War Memorial Building Room 112, Nashville TN 37243; email: rep.eric.watson@capitol.tn.gov.

State Rep. Kevin Brooks: War Memorial Building Room 103, Nashville TN 37243; email: rep.kevin.brooks@capitol.tn.gov.

State Sen. Mike Bell: War Memorial Building Room 309, Nashville TN 37243; email: sen.mike.bell@capitol.tn.gov.

State Sen. Todd Gardenhire: Legislative Plaza Room 11A, Nashville TN 37243; email: sen.todd.gardenhire@capitol.tn.gov.