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Senator Fuschillo And Da Rice Propose Law To Allow Drunk Drivers Who Kill To Be Charged With Homicide

 

Senator Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr. (8th Senate District) and Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice today called for the creation of a new homicide charge for DWI offenders who kill others. Senator Fuschillo and District Attorney Rice were joined by family members of Katie Flynn, a seven year old girl who was killed by a drunk driver on the Meadowbrook Parkway in 2005.

Senator Fuschillo and District Attorney Rice also announced plans for a new mobile blood alcohol testing unit which will enable authorities to quickly obtain chemical test results from suspect drivers immediately at the time of the car stop.

"When someone drives drunk, they are turning their car into a weapon that can kill someone in the blink of an eye. In any other instance, when a criminal uses a weapon to kill someone, they can be charged with murder. Drunk drivers should face the same penalties," said Senator Fuschillo, who is sponsoring the legislation in the State Senate.

"This legislation is essential to our fight against drunk driving in Nassau County. The mobile unit will patrol the streets as a not-so subtle reminder to motorists of our commitment to fighting this epidemic. The unit will also allow us to more effectively investigate and process drunk-driving arrests on our roads and at crowded events throughout the summer season," District Attorney Rice said.

Senator Fuschillo’s legislation (S5517) would strengthen state law by creating the new crime of aggravated vehicular homicide, which would be a class B felony. This crime would apply to criminals who kill someone in a drunk or drugged driving crash and also have at least one of the following:

- BAC of .18 or higher;
- prior DWI conviction within the last 10 years;
- crash caused the death of more than one person;
- crash killed one person and severely injures another;
- offender was driving with a suspended or revoked license from any state

Drunk drivers convicted of aggravated vehicular homicide would face a penalty of up to 25 years in prison.

The legislation also creates the new crime of aggravated vehicular assault, which would be a class C felony. This crime would apply to drunk or drugged drivers who cause serious physical injury to another person and also have at least one of the following:

- BAC of .18 or higher;
- prior DWI conviction within the last 10 years;
- crash caused serious injury to more than one person;
- offender was driving with a suspended or revoked license from any state

Criminals convicted of aggravated vehicular assault would face a penalty of up to 15 years in prison.

Members of the Flynn family joined Senator Fuschillo and District Attorney Rice to offer their support for the new law. The Flynn family’s life was forever changed when, on July 2, 2005, they were riding home from a family member’s wedding in a limousine. While traveling on the Meadowbrook Parkway, their limo was hit by Martin Heidgen, a drunk driver who was driving on the wrong side of the road. The crash killed seven year old Katie Flynn and limo driver Stanley Rabinowitz.

"Martin Heidgen killed two people and was convicted of murder. We need to strengthen the current law to make sure that prosecutors can apply that standard to anyone who recklessly drives drunk and takes someone’s life," Senator Fuschillo said.

The mobile blood alcohol testing unit will be purchased through $250,000 in state funding secured by Senator Fuschillo and used by the District Attorney’s office. It will house the breath testing instruments necessary to quickly obtain chemical test results from suspect drivers immediately at the time of the car stop. The mobile testing unit can be moved from place to place to address "hot spot" areas, and is a form of "high visibility enforcement" that will not only help take drunk drivers off the road, it will provide a strong deterrent from drinking and driving.


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