(ALBANY, NY) State Senator Dale M. Volker (R-I-C, Depew) today announced that the New York State Senate has passed legislation to make it a felony when someone unlawfully flees a police officer while operating a motor vehicle. The State Senate’s legislation will also provide for heightened penalties when this illegal action results in injury or death to a police officer or to third party.
"Unfortunately, police officers and pedestrians are becoming victims of high speed and low speed car chases," said Senator Dale M. Volker. "Despite the loss of life or severe injuries that occur, the driver that causes law enforcement actions and police chases often walks away with a slap on the wrist. This is wrong and why we need to ensure that the punishment fits the crime. I urge the State Assembly to act on this legislation as soon as possible so that our District Attorney will have this new law at their disposal."
If passed by the State Assembly and enacted into law by Governor George E. Pataki, this legislation would create the offense of unlawful fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle in the third degree. This would occur if a person, after being directed to stop by a police officer or having stopped at an 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. A violation of this new section would be a class E felony.
This legislation also provides for the new offense of unlawful fleeing a police officer in motor vehicle in the second degree when he or she commits the offense of unlawful fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle in the third degree and, as a result of such conduct, a police officer or third person suffers physical injury. A violation of this section is a class D felony.
The bill would also provide for the offense of unlawful fleeing of a police officer while in a motor vehicle in the first degree when he or she commits the offense of unlawful fleeing a police officer in a motor vehicle in the third degree and where as a result of such conduct, serious physical injury or death results to a police officer or third person. Violation of this section is a class C felony. Mandatory license revocation upon conviction of these three new penal law offenses would occur.
A person who forces a police officer to engage in a vehicle pursuit of any kind is currently only chargeable for failure to obey a police officer, a mere violation under New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law. Law enforcement professionals are well aware that both high speed and low speed chases can result in dangerous conditions which many times lead to innocent people or law enforcement officers suffering personal injury or death. Because the current punishment for failing to obey a police officer is lenient, individuals, calculating that the penalties if caught are not great, may attempt to flee the police, rather than pull over, creating the potential for disaster.
This legislation is named after New York State Trooper Craig J. Todeschini, who was killed in April of 2006 while pursuing a motor cyclist who failed to obey Trooper Todeschini's directive to stop, resulting in a high speed chase.