LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — After losing his teenage son to a reckless driver, a Henderson man is taking his fight to the Nevada State Capitol.
State senators held a hearing on Tuesday for Senate Bill 322, also known as Rex’s Law. The proposed bill seeks to impose harsher penalties for those driving recklessly.
Since the death of Rex Patchett, his father Jason has turned his pain into action. The man convicted of killing his son was sentenced on Jan. 25, 2023, to six years in prison, a sentence Patchett describes as unjust.
“The potential sentence of one to six years in prison doesn’t provide adequate justice for such an egregious case of reckless driving. Simply put, the punishment does not match the crime,” Patchett told members of the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday.
SB 322 would increase the penalty for driving incidents that result in serious injury or death. Under the current law, the sentence a judge or jury can give a convicted person is one to six years. The bill is proposing a minimum of one year and a maximum of ten.
Furthermore, sentencing for such a crime would increase to eight to 20 years if the driver is traveling faster than 50 miles per hour.
“I know that Senate Bill 322 is not going to bring my son back, nor will it increase the penalty for the reckless driver who killed my son,” Patchett said while holding back tears.
Rex’s Law has seven primary sponsors, including Clark County Republicans Assemblyman Toby Yurek and Sen. Jeff Stone.
Yurek told members of the Senate there needs to be consequences for bad behavior and the current law falls short.
“In recent years we have seen an alarming increase in the number of deaths related to reckless driving, particularly in Las Vegas,” Yurek, Clark County District 10 (R), said.
Yurek added, “The state data for traffic fatalities only goes back to 1991 and in 2022, we saw one of the highest traffic death counts in the past 32 years.”
Rex Patchett was killed on Mar. 7, 2022, in front of Mannion Middle School walking home from a friend’s house.
Investigators say Jose Marmolejo hit Rex while driving nearly 100 mph. It took several days before Marmolejo was arrested.
During his sentencing in January, Marmolejo apologized for his actions.
“I’d like to give my deepest sorrows to the Patchett family. I’m so very sorry to everybody,” Marmolejo said.
Jason Patchett emphasized to lawmakers that SB322 needs to pass not only to enhance safety in the state but also to preserve his son’s legacy.
“This bill is about standing up for the countless victims of reckless driving and providing adequate justice for them. It’s about helping the next family that will unfortunately find themselves in our shoes,” Patchett said.
Data shared at the hearing stated there have been 40,000 reckless driving citations issued in Nevada in just the past four years.
Sen. Stone has proposed an amendment to Rex’s Law to just a penalty of a 1 to 10 year prison sentence if a driver goes over 50 miles per hour when the offense occurs. That sentence would also apply if the incident happened in a school or pedestrian safety zone. It remains to be seen whether the amendment gets adopted.
In February, the Henderson City Council voted to improve pedestrian safety near Mannion Middle School. It includes adding a flashing pedestrian crossing.