Senate To Act On Tougher Penalties For Drivers Who Flee Police

James S. Alesi

May 18, 2006

The New York State Senate today acted on the "Craig J. Todeschini Bill" bill, sponsored by Senator Jim Alesi (R-C, Perinton), that would make it a felony for a driver to flee police.

The bill is named after 25 year old State Police Trooper Craig J. Todeschini of Geddes, Onondaga County, who was killed in the line of duty on April 23rd. A speeding motorcyclist failed to obey Trooper Todeschini's directive to stop, resulting in a high speed chase and his police vehicle crashed into a tree during the pursuit.

Senator Alesi and Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno announced Senate action on the bill today at a Capitol news conference, joined by Craig’s wife Kristi and his parents, Jim and Cindy Todeschini, as well as by Assemblyman Jeff Brown of Syracuse, the Assembly sponsor of the legislation.

"Sixteen states have felony pursuit laws on the books to protect people from dangerous high speed chases, and it’s time that New York became the seventeenth," Senator Alesi said. "This bill would protect police officers, motorists and pedestrians by deterring these chases and punishing drivers who flee the police."

Kristi Todeschini said, "I would like to thank the Senate for acting on this bill today. It should have been addressed many years ago, but unfortunately, it takes a tragedy like this to bring the issue to the forefront. Enacting this bill into law would give prosecutors better leverage to ensure that the punishment fits the crime. I urge the Assembly to pass Assemblyman Brown’s bill as soon as possible."

The bill (S.7858) creates the felony offense of unlawful fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle when a person, after being directed to stop by a police officer or having stopped at the officer's direction, flees or attempts to flee that police officer by driving at a speed in excess of twenty miles over speed limit or engaging in reckless driving.

Under the provisions of the bill, unlawfully fleeing an officer would be a Class E felony punishable by up to four years in prison; if an officer or another person is injured, the offense would be a Class D felony, punishable by up to seven years in prison; and if an officer or another person is seriously injured or killed, the offense would be a Class C felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

The Senate has acted on felony pursuit legislation in previous years, in response to other incidents where people have been killed or injured including:

>On January 1, 2004, 24 year old David Scaringe of Albany was killed by an errant bullet from police, who were trying to stop a driver from fleeing.

> In June of 2001, Rochester police officer Russ Igler was seriously injured when he was run over by a bank robbery suspect fleeing police from the scene of the crime.

According to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, over the past ten years, 688 law enforcement officers have been killed in motor vehicle incidents, almost 100 more than were killed by guns.

The Legislature enacted a new law last year toughening penalties for killing police officers and the Senate is still fighting to enact the death penalty for killing an officer.