Senator John Flanagan (2nd Senate District) announced that legislation that would increase the penalties for drunk drivers has passed the Senate. The legislation, which is the result of an agreement with the Assembly, would increase the penalties for DWI offenders with extremely high blood alcohol content (BAC), ensure that repeat DWI offenders are kept off the road and increase the penalties for drunk drivers who kill others.
"The need to protect the innocent drivers who share the roads throughout our community requires that we deal harshly with those who drink and drive. We have all seen the senseless loss and devastation that these thoughtless drivers reek on our communities and on families. This legislation would make the punishment fit the crime," stated Senator Flanagan, the sponsor of a variety of laws and legislation regarding boating while intoxicated offenses. "If this legislation saves one life, it will be worth it and I believe it will save countless lives."
To deter those who choose to drive with an exceptionally high blood alcohol content (BAC) level, the legislation would increase the penalties for those convicted of driving with a BAC level more than twice the legal limit of .08. Those who make the choice to drive with a BAC level of .18 or higher would now be charged with aggravated drunk driving.
A conviction for this crime would be punishable with any combination of up to one year in prison and a fine of between $1,000 and $2,000.
A person convicted of aggravated drunk driving would also be required to have an ignition interlock system installed on their vehicle while on probation. This device would require a driver to breath into the device to determine BAC level. If there is a measurable amount of alcohol in the blood, the vehicle will not start.
According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, about one-third of all driving under the influence (DUI) arrests each year are of people who have been convicted previously of driving under the influence.
For drunk drivers who kill while operating a motor vehicle, the legislation would increase the penalties for vehicular manslaughter if one of four factors is included in an incident. These four factors would include being involved in an alcohol related crash that causes the death of two others, having two or more DWI convictions within the last five years or three or more convictions within the last ten years, having been previously convicted of a homicide offense caused by driving or being convicted of aggravated DWI. If any of these four factors is met, then the penalty would rise from a class D felony to a class C felony.
The legislation also would extend the revocation period for repeat drunk drivers who refuse to submit to chemical testing to avoid prosecution.
Drivers who have a combination of 3 or more DWI convictions or chemical test refusals within a four year period or a combination of 4 or more DWI convictions or chemical test refusals within an eight year period would have their licenses permanently revoked.
Those who drive with a permanently revoked drivers license would face felony charges.
"The time has come to expand New York State's tough DWI laws and make sure that those who disregard the law are held accountable. This is good legislation and a very positive improvement to the protections we already provide to the law abiding drivers in our state," concluded Senator Flanagan.
This legislation would go into effect on November 1st when enacted.
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