Drivers who habitually break the law will now be facing stricter penalties thanks to a new law in honor of a Scarborough resident killed in an accident last summer.

Gov. John Baldacci signed the bill known as “Tina’s Law” on April 28 after unanimous votes in both the Senate and the House.

Tina’s Law, honoring Scarborough’s Tina Turcotte, who was killed last summer on the Maine Turnpike in Hallowell, creates strict penalties for drivers operating with a suspended or revoked license.

“Today’s signing of Tina’s Law sends a message to all drivers that Maine takes operating after suspension and the repeated violation of other motor vehicle laws very seriously,” said Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap.

“This is really a wonderful thing for everyone in the state of Maine,” said Rep. Darlene Curley, R-Scarborough, one of the bill’s sponsors. “North or south, urban or rural, it will make it safer for every family.”

On July 29, Turcotte’s car was struck by truck driver Scott Hewitt when he didn’t slow down for stopping traffic. Turcotte died two days after the accident.


At the time of the accident, Hewitt was driving with more than 20 license suspensions and over 60 motor vehicle convictions on his record, making him a habitual offender under the new law.

Tina’s Law defines a habitual offender as someone convicted for violating at least three major vehicle laws in the last five years, such as driving with a suspended or revoked license. The definition of habitual offender also applies if someone is convicted at least 10 times in five years for moving violations, such as running a stop sign.

Now, offenders with these types of records face a mandatory $500 fine and 30 days in jail for driving with a suspended or revoked license. There are harsher penalties for habitual offenders with the worst records. Fines and jail time can jump to at least $1,000 and two years in prison.

There are also mandatory penalties for habitual offenders who commit certain crimes after losing their license, such as driving under the influence or driving to endanger. The fines will range from $500 for a first offense to $3,000 for repeat offenders, with jail time increasing from at least six months to five years.

On Friday, an hour after the bill’s signing, Sen. William Diamond, D-Windham, said that he “really had no doubts it would pass.”

Another sponsor of the bill, Diamond credits the amount of dedicated people working on the bill as a main reason for its success so soon after its initial proposal last fall. Calling it an “unprecedented” piece of legislation, he added that, “It happened really fast. That happens with good preparation, and this bill was prepped as much as it could be.”


There were various changes proposed to the bill as it wound its way through the Legislature, the last of which happened just two days before the final vote.

On Wednesday of that week Curley asked the House to include a mandatory five-year jail sentence for any driver who caused a fatal accident while driving with a suspended or revoked license. The House turned Curley’s amendment down and voted 143-0 to pass the bill.

“I’m pleased with the final results, but I would like the state to be tougher on crime,” said Curley.

Turcotte’s husband, Scott Turcotte, agrees.

“It’s a step forward, but I wish it was tougher,” said Turcotte. “At least they’re doing something to help other families down the road.”

Turcotte added that he hopes it makes others feel safer, though he believes many don’t think about the dangers the law helps prevent.


“To me, the worst case scenario has already happened,” he said.

The law does include stiff penalties for unlicensed drivers who are not habitual offenders but do cause accidents that either injure or kill. A judge is not required to, but can sentence a driver to five years in prison with up to a $5,000 fine for an injury. For a fatality it’s a maximum of 10 years jail time and a possible $20,000 fine.

“When you have a bill with so many changes you’d expect it to not go through so easily,” said Diamond. “It could be considered a unique form of legislation.”

Curley agrees that the bill passed with ease, in part due to the people behind it and also because of a bipartisan effort.

“It’s good government,” said Curley.

Beyond Maine, Tina’s Law could influence other state governments to create similar laws. According to Curley, people in several different states have contacted her about the bill.


In particular, a call from Vermont stands out to her. Two weeks ago a family suffering from a tragedy like the Turcottes asked Curley about Tina’s Law. By the end of the conversation, they told her to expect a call from their own state representative.

“This is a growing national problem,” said Curley.

Though the new law will benefit all of Maine and possibly other states, Curley called the bill “a real tribute to the Turcotte family. The Turcottes put their private grief in public by standing up for other families with similar tragedies.”

Additional material contributed by Victoria Wallack of State House News Service

State Sen. Bill Diamond, of Windham, was joined by fellow legislators and the family of Tina Turcotte when Gov. John Baldacci signed Tina’s Law this week. From left are Diamond, Rep. Stan Gerzofsky, Rep. Pat Blanchette, Rep. Steve Hanley, family members Less and Beverly White, and Baldacci.

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