Senate Passes Comprehensive Package Of DWI Legislation

Thomas P. Morahan

April 25, 2006

Senator Thomas P. Morahan announced New York State Senate passage of a comprehensive package of DWI legislation that will keep repeat DWI offenders off the streets and increase the penalties for drunk driving, especially drunk drivers that severely injure or kill innocent victims.

"This package of legislation 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 make the wrong choice to drink and get behind the wheel of a vehicle," said Senator Morahan.

The Senate will act next week on the Bill Leaf-Brandi Woods Law  that 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. The legislation is named after the late Bill Leaf and Brandi Woods, a 15 year old from Memphis, New York who was delivering Girl Scout cookies on March 17, 2005 when she was struck and killed by a drunk driver.

The Senate is also expected to act on legislation 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.

The Senate passed the following legislation :

Increasing Penalties

The New York State Senate passed legislation that would create a new Class E felony when a person is convicted of a fourth violation of driving while ability impaired (DWAI), punishable by a fine of between $1,000 and $5,000 and/or imprisonment for a minimum of 1-3 years, and a mandatory drivers license revocation for one year.

Another bill passed by the Senate  would expand the requirement of mandatory imprisonment or community service for repeat convictions of driving while intoxicated, driving while impaired by drugs and commercial vehicle alcohol offenses. The bill also increases the period of revocation of license and registration to two years for the first repeat conviction within 10 years, and four years for the second and subsequent convictions. In addition, during any period of license revocation, the registration of each motor vehicle owned by such a person shall be revoked.

The Senate passed a bill  that would increase the parameters of driving while ability impaired to include driving while ability is affected to any extent by the utilization of a drug.

Under current law, first time offenders charged with driving under the influence of a drug are offered a plea that allows the defendant to admit to driving while their ability was impaired by alcohol. This legislation will allow law enforcement officials to determine a pattern of drug use by correctly acknowledging the involvement of drugs in the original offense, when issuing a plea bargain.


Also, the Senate passed legislation that would create stronger penalties for drunk drivers who severely injure or kill people while driving while intoxicated by establishing the crimes of "Aggravated Vehicular Assault," a class C felony, and "Vehicular Murder," a class B felony.

The Senate also passed legislation that would enhance the existing criminal sanctions for unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and require those drivers arrested for Aggravated Unlicensed Operation of a Motor Vehicle be fingerprinted. Under current law, individuals can continue to violate the law, yet avoid detection.