Building on last year’s historic legislation that lowered the state’s DWI levels, Assemblyman Bob Oaks (R-Macedon) and his colleagues in the Assembly minority conference today proposed a plan that would further protect New Yorkers by creating tougher penalties for hardcore drunk drivers and repeat offenders.
"Although we’ve saved lives by lowering the BAC limit to 0.08, we need to target persistent drunk drivers and repeat offenders," Oaks said. "Our plan will create a new crime of ‘Aggravated Driving While Intoxicated’ for drivers found to have a BAC of 0.18 or higher, a Class E felony for first-time offenders. Those with prior convictions could face a Class C felony, with prison terms up to 15 years."
Oaks said he supports another provision that would suspend the driver’s license of repeat offenders for 30 months. Right now, suspensions are limited to one year.
The assemblyman noted that the average BAC of drunk drivers arrested in New York state is 0.17, which means that a significant number of offenders fall into this category.
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Board, 41 percent of all traffic fatalities nationwide are alcohol-related. Research shows that "hardcore" drunk drivers – those arrested with a BAC of 0.15 or higher – are 385 times more likely than non-drinking drivers to be involved in a fatal accident. Also, fatally injured drivers with criminal BAC levels were seven times more likely to have had a prior DWI conviction than fatally injured drivers who were sober.
Oaks outlined the Assembly minority six-point anti-drunk driving plan which includes the following:
- Create Class E felony of "Aggravated Driving While Intoxicated" – Creates new crime of Aggravated DWI for drivers found to have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.18 or higher.
- Create Class D felony of "Aggravated Driving While Intoxicated" for second conviction – Aggravated DWI would be a Class D felony for drivers who have been convicted of one other DWI offense within the previous 10 years.
- Create Class C felony of "Aggravated Driving While Intoxicated" for two-time repeat offenders – Aggravated DWI would be a Class C felony for drivers who have been convicted of two other DWI charges within the previous 10 years.
- Restrict plea bargaining for Aggravated DWI – Any person charged with Aggravated DWI would not be allowed to plead to anything lower than a misdemeanor DWI charge.
- Allow judges to immediately suspend driver’s licenses – Any person charged with Aggravated DWI would have his or her license suspended immediately.
- Increase length of suspension for repeat offenders – Drivers convicted of any DWI charge who have had other DWI convictions within the preceding 10 years would have their licenses suspended for 30 months, rather than the current one year.
"We know that lowering the BAC level from 0.10 to 0.08 has already prevented suffering and saved countless lives," Oaks said. "Getting tougher with persistent offenders and those with the highest BAC levels will build on our success to better protect our citizens. It will save more lives, and send a powerful message to drunk drivers: impaired driving is not tolerable. Not now and not ever."