Saying that "enough is enough," State Senator José M. Serrano (D- Bronx/Manhattan) today hailed a new measure that imposes harsher penalties for driving with extremely high blood alcohol levels, killing someone while driving while intoxicated, or repeatedly getting behind the wheel while intoxicated.
The bill, which recently passed both the Senate and Assembly, would create the crime of aggravated driving while intoxicated for drivers with a blood alcohol content of 0.18 or higher. The new offense would also encompass the influence of alcohol in combination with any drug. The enhanced misdemeanor would be punishable by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500. Motorists convicted of DWI under current law face the same possible jail time, but the fine is limited to $1,000. New York’s DWI threshold is 0.08.
"This is a huge step forward in our efforts to saves lives and prevent senseless tragedies, and it sends a powerful message that New York means business when it comes to dealing with drunk drivers," said Senator Serrano. "It has the potential to save untold numbers of New Yorkers the agony of answering the door in the middle of the night to hear a police officer tell them their loved one was killed as a result of drunk driving."
Under this new measure, which will be sent to the Governor for his signature, a person convicted of aggravated DWI would also be required to have an ignition interlock system installed on his or her vehicle while on probation. The device requires a driver to blow into an alcohol sensor attached to a vehicle’s dashboard. The car will not start if a certain alcohol level is detected.
"This legislation represents a significant victory in the ongoing battle to keep New York’s roads safer from drunk drivers, and to help prevent the terrible tragedies we see or hear about seemingly every week," said Senator Serrano. "By expanding and enhancing the scope of DWI legislation, we can further prevent drunk driving, and limit the tragic loss of life on our highways."
The bill also allows prosecutors to seek longer prison terms for those charged with vehicular manslaughter under certain circumstances. Those convicted in such cases could face up to 15 years in prison instead of the current maximum sentence of seven years. Additionally, drivers who agree to plea to a lesser charge of driving while ability impaired (DWAI) instead of DWI would be required to complete an alcohol and drug rehabilitation program.
"I am proud to have supported this legislation and congratulate my colleagues in both houses for passing this very important bill," the New York City lawmaker concluded.