Eli Mitchell’s family attends ceremonial signing of bill bringing harsher punishments for DUI homicide

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4) — Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill joined the family of Eli Mitchell on Wednesday in a ceremonial signing of House Bill 273, which gives harsher punishments to those convicted of DUI homicide.

The district attorney’s office worked with the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Andrew Stoddard and Sen. Todd Weiler, as well as Mitchell’s family, to support the passage of the bill.

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The law establishes a minimum sentence of five years for those who drive under the influence and hit and kill someone, where before the maximum sentence was 1-15 years.

According to the district attorney’s office, judges will “retain the discretion to lower the minimum term to three years or to suspend a prison sentence in rare cases where the presumptive minimum does not serve the interests of justice.”

Ceremonial signing of HB 273 (Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office)
Ceremonial signing of HB 273 (Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office)

Almost two years ago, 13-year-old Eli Mitchell was walking his bike across a crosswalk while on his way home from a convenience store where he went to buy treats. But he never made it home as he was struck and killed by a drunk driver.

Glendon Mitchell, Eli’s grandfather, described the boy as brilliant, and said they dearly miss him.
Eli Mitchell’s family, which has been rallying in favor of H.B. 273, said it allows healing for victims.

“I had a senator asked me as we were visiting with him, ‘Why are you doing this, Mr. Mitchell?’,” Glendon Mitchell said. “This is not retroactive. It will have no impact on our driver. Our goal is very simple. We hope no other DUI victim has to go through what we’ve been through thus far.”

The driver in Eli’s case got the maximum sentence of 1-15 years in prison, but Eli’s family said they were thrown into a situation shortly after the sentencing where they had to deal with the board of pardons and parole.

“That type of news is so traumatic and revictimizes grieving people who haven’t’ really recovered from court processes. We’re hoping that DUI automobile homicide victims could have a reprieve,” Glendon Mitchell said. “Secondly, all other homicide sentences have a minimum mandatory. For some reason, DUI automobile homicide was never included with mandatory, and it seemed to fit the model used in other types of murder.”

Gov. Spencer Cox signed HB 273 into law on March 13.

“Eli Mitchell had his entire life ahead of him, but it was tragically cut short by someone’s selfish actions,” said Gill, the district attorney. “Those who drink and drive will find no quarter from our office. While Eli may no longer be with us, his legacy and impact remains.”

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