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NYS Senate passed get-tougher bill on serial drunk drivers

Posted at: 05/07/2013 2:05 PM
Updated at: 05/07/2013 6:21 PM
By: Berkeley Brean

There are some people in New York State that have been convicted of drunk driving five to 10 times. But on each conviction, they only spend a few years in jail. Now there's a new proposal that would change that.

There are two main things to know about this proposed law. The prison time could be significantly longer and it extends what prosecutors like to call, “the look-back period” from 10 years to 25 years.

Currently, if a person with a DWI conviction on their record gets a second DWI arrest in 10 years, it's a felony. The sentence could range from probation up to 7 years in prison. Under the new proposed law, if a person with that same DWI conviction gets a third DWI arrest in 25 years, it's a more serious felony with prison time up to 15 years.

If a person is convicted of DWI in the year 2000, 2011 and again in 2022, because they fall outside the 10 year “look-back period”, those are only misdemeanors. The new proposed law closes that loop hole, makes that third arrest, a felony and the driver is looking at a maximum of 15 years in prison.

So what do the experts think about this? One prosecutor says it's about time the state gets repeat, serial drunk drivers off the road. A local DWI defense attorney says thinks it's extreme.

Ed Fiandach, attorney, DWI expert, said, “I mean you brand someone a felon and it significantly cuts off their possibilities for employment, from benefits, sometimes from traveling to other countries. I think it's excessive. Three in 10 would be great but three in 25 is way too much.”

Rick Healy, Wayne County District Attorney, said, “You have people who are chronic alcoholics and obviously, they can't stop drinking. But they can't stop driving. And driver's licenses mean nothing to them. They drive without their licenses, that's not important. So really when you do that and you're a serial drunk driver, the public needs to be protected and they're protected by incarcerating these people really.”

The new proposal passed the state senate unanimously Monday. It's in the assembly now.