Golden Announces Legislative Agreement: Leaf-brandi Woods Legislation To Become Law

Martin J. Golden

June 26, 2006

Albany- State Senator Marty Golden (R-C, Brooklyn) is announcing final legislative passage to the Bill Leaf-Brandi Woods Law (S.7233-A), sponsored by Senator John DeFrancisco (R-C-I-WF, Syracuse), which would increase penalties for certain vehicular crimes committed by persons who have previously been convicted on one or more occasions of an alcohol or drug related driving while intoxicated charge or driving while ability impaired charge.

"Drinking and driving is a senseless act that causes unnecessary pain and tragedy," said Senator Bruno. "This bill will allow us to continue our efforts to make New York’s roadways the safest in the nation. We have consistently sent a strong message that we will not tolerate drivers who place their lives, and the lives of innocent bystanders, at risk because they repeatedly make the wrong choice to drink and get behind the wheel of a vehicle. This legislation will help us prevent more senseless tragedies like the deaths of Bill Leaf and Brandi Woods."

"I am pleased that the Assembly has agreed to join us is on our efforts to make sure that our streets are safer and that justice is served," said Senator Marty Golden, a former New York City Police Office. "There has to be serious repercussions for individuals who repeatedly decide to get behind the wheel of a vehicle drunk and play Russian Roulette with innocent lives. Otherwise, there is no deterrent to stop them from doing it again."

Golden continued, "The man who killed Brandi Woods had three prior DWI arrests and he was only sentenced to one to three years in State prison for her death. Matthew Benedict, who took the life of Bill Leaf, had a history of driving while intoxicated. Our current law does not adequately punish repeat offenders who cause serious physical injury or death on our roadways. This has to stop and it’s time that these criminals be held accountable for harming and killing innocent people."

The legislation is named for 25 year old Bill Leaf, a prominent Syracuse area reporter and sports anchor who will killed by a drunk driver traveling the wrong way on Interstate 81 and Brandi Woods, a 15 year old girl from Memphis, New York who was delivering Girl Scout cookies when she was struck and killed by a drunk driver. Both drivers had a history of drunk driving offenses.

Under the measure, an individual who has previously been convicted of driving while intoxicated or while ability impaired within the last ten years, and then causes serious physical injury while operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, would be charged with vehicular assault in the first degree, a class D felony. If a motorist has had a prior DWI conviction within the last ten years and he or she kills someone while driving drunk, that individual would be charged with vehicular manslaughter, a class C felony.

The Senate also gave final legislative passage to a bill (S.7216A), sponsored by Senator DeFrancisco, that would ensure that drivers previously convicted of driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs in other states shall be penalized as if they had been convicted of the prior violation within New York State.