Charles J. Fuschillo Jr.

May 07, 2009

Photo caption: Senator Fuschillo shows how an ignition inerlock eill keep a convicted drunk driving from driving drunk again. He is joined by (l-r) Johanna Hazarian, the mother of Police Officer Glen Ciano, DA Rice, Legislator Horsley, MADD-LI President Denna Cohen, and DEDICATEDD President Marge Lee in calling on the State to enact a law making ignition interlocks mandatory for all convicted DWI offenders.

State Senator Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr. (R-Merrick) today received support of his efforts to pass a state law requiring mandatory ignition interlocks for convicted drunk drivers from the family of Suffolk County Police Officer Glen Ciano, who was killed in the line of duty by a drunk driver in February. This support comes in addition to a bi-partisan letter now being circulated in the Suffolk County Legislature by Legislator Wayne Horsley (D-Babylon) calling on the State to enact the proposed law.

Senator Fuschillo, Ranking Member of the Senate Transportation Committee and author of several anti-DWI laws in New York State, said, "The tragic loss of Officer Ciano is just one example of the harm a drunk driver can cause. A drunk driver turns an ordinary vehicle into a weapon but ignition interlocks help take the weapon out of a drunk driver’s hands. They have been proven to dramatically reduce the number of drunk driving crashes and deaths. I appreciate the support of the Ciano family in helping to get this common sense measure passed into law so that we can save lives and prevent drunk driving."

"Glen dedicated his career to public service and he was tragically taken away from us by a drunk driver while in the line of duty. More needs to be done to get drunk drivers off our roads. Senator Fuschillo’s ignition interlock legislation is a major step in the right direction towards stopping drunk drivers from harming innocent drivers on our roadways," said Dennis & Merri Ciano, Officer Ciano’s brother and sister-in-law.

Senator Fuschillo, the Ciano family, and Legislator Horsley held a press conference at MADD’s "Long Island Garden of Awareness" at Farmingdale State College, where the names of many Long Islanders killed or injured by drunk drivers are inscribed on a memorial wall. They were also joined by Nassau County D.A. Kathleen Rice and advocates from MADD and DEDICATEDD in calling for passage of the proposed law.

The legislation (S. 27-B/A. 7196-A), sponsored by Senator Fuschillo and Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach) , would require all those convicted of drunk driving, including first time offenders, to install, at their own cost, an ignition interlock device in all vehicles which they use while on probation. The life-saving technology has been proven to reduce drunk driving recidivism and save lives in states where they are currently used. The ignition interlock requirement would be in addition to other penalties he or she may received. The proposed law also mandates probation for all DWI offenders.

An alcohol ignition interlock is a breath test device linked to a vehicle’s ignition system. Before starting their vehicle, the convicted must first blow into the interlock. The interlock will prevent the car from starting if it detects alcohol in the driver’s breath. Interlocks have been proven to reduce repeat drunk driving offenses by an average of 64 percent according to MADD.

Assemblyman Weisenberg said, "It is clear that being charged with a DWI is no longer enough of a disincentive to drink and drive. There are people out on the roads of our neighborhoods who continue to operate a vehicle while under the influence, despite having multiple DWIs. As a former Chairman of the Assembly Alcohol and Substance Abuse Committee and former police officer, it is my hope that ignition interlock devices will be the key to preventing injuries and deaths throughout communities across New York State."

Legislator Horsley is spearheading the Suffolk County Legislature’s endorsement of Senator Fuschillo’s bill and will be collecting signatures from each Legislator at their next legislative meeting for a bi-partisan letter calling on the state to enact the law.

"The public continues to be placed in danger by a minority of citizens who have no respect for the rule of law, and either cannot or do not want to refrain from drinking-and-driving. That is why Suffolk County supports a mandate requiring any and all convicted DWI offenders to pay for and use an ignition interlock device," stated Legislator Horsley. "I am confident our New York State officials will support this invaluable tool for law enforcement that will save countless and untold lives if adopted."

Under the legislation, the period of time first offenders would have to use an ignition interlock device would increase the higher the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of the offender, from three months to one year.

Under current state law, only those convicted of Aggravated DWI (a .18 BAC and over) who are sentenced to probation are required to install and maintain ignition interlock devices.

For first time offenders, the period of required ignition interlock under the proposed law would be:

- BAC of .08 to .11 – mandatory three months probation and interlock

- BAC of .12 to .17 – mandatory six months probation and interlock

- BAC of .18 or higher – mandatory one year probation and interlock

For repeat offenders, the period of required ignition interlock would be:

- 2nd DWI conviction – a minimum of three years probation and interlock.

- 3rd DWI conviction – a minimum of five years probation and interlock

- 4th DWI conviction - a minimum of ten years probation and interlock.

Under the legislation, every vehicle owned, leased, rented or loaned by the offenders would have an ignition interlock.

In addition, each person convicted of a drug or alcohol driving-related offense would have to pay a surcharge of $50 which would be placed in a newly established Mandatory Ignition Interlock Fund maintained by the Division of Probation and Correction Alternatives and used to provide for continued and future support of the interlock program, including updating of equipment and hiring of more probationary staff. The fund would also support ignition interlock devices for New Yorkers who are proven to be unable to finance the devices.

The legislation is also being supported by Nassau county District Attorney Kathleen Rice and the anti-DWI advocacy groups MADD and DEDICATEDD.

"Legislation like this is essential to maintaining safe roadways in New York State. I applaud Senator Fuschillo and Assemblyman Weisenberg for their continuing commitment to combating drunk driving and the violence it causes," said District Attorney Rice.

"MADD fully supports Senator Fuschillo’s legislation to require mandatory ignition interlocks for drunk drivers in New York State. Interlocks are one of the best proven ways to stop convicted drunk drivers from driving drunk again. They help stop drunk drivers before they can hurt someone. You don’t delay when you can save someone’s life. That’s what this law will do, and we need it now," said Denna Cohen, President of MADD-Long Island.

"Because of drunken drivers, many members of DEDICATEDD are living shattered lives. We will never know how many families would still be whole if their offender had an interlock device in the car. We do know that when Senator Fuschillo's interlock legislation is passed many lives will be saved. Yes, there is a cost to the offender and some feel the device is inconvenient. For those of us who have paid for funerals caused by drunken drivers, I assure you, death is by far a greater ‘inconvenience’. DEDICATEDD is grateful to Senator Fuschillo for his determination to keep New Yorkers safe and for representing the vast majority of Long Islanders who support this legislation," said Marge Lee, President of DEDICATEDD.

Currently 10 states require or highly incentivize interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers. The State of New Mexico mandates ignition interlock for everyone convicted of DWI. A 2008 study conducted by the National Highway Safety Transportation Administration and the Pacific Institute of Research and Analysis found that recidivism rates for DWI in that state had dropped by 60 percent since the program was established.

There were over 29,000 DWI arrests in Nassau and Suffolk Counties between 2006 and 2008. 226 people were killed by drunk drivers on Long Island roadways in that same time period.

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