New Yorkers will soon have one more reason to avoid driving while intoxicated, as Gov. David Paterson today is expected to sign a bill that will make it easier to convict drunk drivers.
Currently, official medical personnel cannot perform a blood test for alcohol or drugs levels on a suspect without a doctor present. Otherwise, juries must throw out the blood test evidence.
Supporters of the bill, sponsored by Charles J. Fuschillo (R) in the Senate and Harvey Weisenberg (D) in the Assembly, point out that drunk drivers sometimes escape prosecution by dismissing the evidence against them on this technicality, even if the blood test was performed by trained medical personnel, such as emergency medical technicians.
"Legal loopholes should not allow drunk drivers who cause crashes and kill innocent people to escape prosecution," Fuschillo said in a press release. "There are numerous licensed health professionals who are fully trained to take blood to determine alcohol content without the presence of a physician."
The bill cleared the Senate and Assembly on June 24th, and Governor Paterson is expected to sign it into law today.
Lawmakers started pushing for the bill when Olympic gold medalist Jack Shea was killed in a head-on collision with a drunk driver in Lake Placid in 2002. The driver escaped conviction because, although he consented to the blood test, a doctor did not observe it and the jury was therefore obliged to dismiss it. The legislation is named after Jack Shea.