The New York State Senate today voted to enact landmark drunk driving reforms proposed by Senator Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr. (8th Senate District), that increases penalties for repeat offenders, drunk drivers with an elevated blood alcohol content (BAC), drunk drivers who kill others, and individuals who refuse to submit to a chemical test.
"The Department of Criminal Justice Services estimates that the average DWI offender drives drunk once every four or five nights. These irresponsible individuals are placing thousands of New Yorkers lives at risk on a nightly basis," said Senator Fuschillo, author of New York State’s ".08 Law". "We have a responsibility to do whatever we can to protect all New Yorkers from falling victim to a drunk driving tragedy. By targeting the repeat offenders and high BAC drivers, who have shown time and time again that they have no regard for the safety of other drivers, we will save lives."
Senator Fuschillo’s legislation would:
Target High BAC Offenders:
- Creates the crime of aggravated DWI for drunk drivers who operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content of .18 or higher, which would be punishable by up to 1 year in jail and/or a fine of $1,000-$2,500.
- Penalties for all other drunk driving crimes would be enhanced if the offender is convicted of aggravated DWI.
- Aggravated DWI offenders would be required to have an ignition interlock system installed on their vehicle while on probation.
Take Drunk Drivers Off the Road:
- Extends the driver license revocation period for repeat DWI offenders and drivers who refuse a to submit to a chemical test.
- Permanently revokes the licenses of anyone who has a combination of 3 or more DWI convictions or chemical test refusals within a four year period. Offenders with a combination of 4 or more DWI convictions or chemical test refusals within an 8 year period would also have their licenses permanently revoked.
- Individuals who are caught driving with a permanently revoked drivers license would face felony charges.
Increase the Penalties for Drunk Drivers Who Kill:
- Adds four new factors which would increase the penalties for vehicular manslaughter in the second degree (class D felony) to vehicular manslaughter in the first degree (class C felony):
- Crash caused the death of two or more persons (other than the defendant); or
- Defendant has 2 or more DWI convictions within the last 5 years, or 3 or more convictions within the last 10 years; or
- Defendant has previously been convicted of a homicide offense caused by driving; or
- Defendant is guilty of aggravated DWI.
Help Treat Addiction:
- Drivers submitting a plea bargain from a DWI offense to a DWAI offense would be required to complete an alcoholism and drug rehabilitation program.
- Requires "screening" for all first time offenders with a BAC of less than .15
- Requires an alcohol dependency assessment for repeat offenders, offenders with a BAC of .15 or higher, or for those who need it as indicated by screening.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) estimates that between 2000 and 2004, over 2,500 people lost their lives on New York’s roadways at the hands of a drunk driver. In addition, a 2005 report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration noted that the most frequently recorded BAC level among drunk drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2004 was .18, which is equivalent to a 190 pound man having 9 drinks in one hour.
The legislation has been delivered to the Assembly.
"We have worked hard with the Assembly, especially Assemblymembers Tokasz and Gantt who are sponsoring this measure in the Assembly, and I am hopeful that they will join us in passing these necessary reforms," Senator Fuschillo added.
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