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New York lawmakers aim to toughen drunk driving laws

The consequences for driving drunk in New York are severe. A conviction for a DWI can result in fines, a revoked driver's license, jail time and more. Nonetheless, New York state lawmakers think that the laws are not tough enough, and they are working to strengthen DWI penalties.

Three bills that would increase punishments for DWI offenders have already been passed by the New York Senate, and the New York Assembly will be next to weigh in on the matters.

  1. The first bill would have a significant effect on repeat offenders. Drivers who have been convicted of DWI on three separate occasions would face vehicular homicide charges rather than vehicular manslaughter charges. Vehicular homicide is a Class B felony, and it is punishable by up to 25 years in jail.
  2. The second bill addresses alleged hit-and-run drivers. Under existing law, drunkenness is a defense to leaving the scene of an accident without reporting it; drivers may say that they were not aware they were involved in a car accident. Under the new law, this defense would not be allowed. Leaving the scene of an accident that causes injury or death would be prosecuted as a felony; leaving the scene of an accident involving property damage would be prosecuted as a misdemeanor.
  3. The final bill revises the meaning of intoxication. Under New York law, driving while intoxicated or DWI pertains to alcohol impairment only. The revision would broaden the definition of intoxication to include any substance that alters one's state of mind. So, over-the-counter drugs and other substances could lead to DWI charges.

The future of this legislation remains to be seen. These efforts are a reminder that New York is cracking down on drunk driving. Those who find themselves facing DWI charges should seek legal counsel as soon as possible in order to protect their rights.

Source: News 10, State lawmakers working to pass three bills related to drunk driving," Chalonda Roberts, Dec. 27, 2013

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