Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz and State Senator Nicholas Spano have introduced legislation to crack down on repeat DWI offenders. Unsurprisingly, repeat DWI offenders account for about half the DWI arrests each year. This substantially contributes to the drunk driving problem.
Driving while intoxicated is the nation’s most frequently committed crime, killing someone every 30 minutes and costing more than 17,000 lives a year. According to the National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA), alcohol is involved in about 40% of fatal crashes and 7% of all crashes. Of the 17,013 people who died in alcohol-related crashes in 2003, 14,630 (86%) were killed in crashes where at least one driver or non occupant had a BAC of 0.08% or higher.
Nationwide, about 1.5 million people are arrested each year for driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics—an arrest rate of 1 for every 130 licensed drivers. In New York State, more than 48,000 drivers were arrested in 2004 for alcohol-related driving offenses. And this is just the statistics for those actually caught driving drunk.
The most significant problem regarding drinking and driving continues to be recidivism. According to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, nearly a quarter of those convicted of DWI in 2004 had a prior conviction of DWI within the last ten years.
The bill introduced by Assemblyman Dinowitz comes down hard on those repeat drunk drivers. Its aim is to keep them off the road and to give law enforcement better tools to catch them before they hurt themselves or others. The legislation does four important things:
1. ESTABLISH A SPECIAL LICENSE PLATE FOR REPEAT DWI OFFENDERS
The bill would create a special license plate for a driver who has received three convictions of DWI within a five year period, or five convictions within a ten year period. Such a driver must apply to the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles for a new plate.
The new plate would contain a special combination of letters and/or numbers that are easily identifiable to law enforcement as a repeat DWI offender.
The special plates must be used for two years.
2. ESTABLISH INCREASED PENALTIES FOR OPERATING A MOTOR VEHICLE OUTSIDE THE CONDITIONS OF A CONDITIONAL LICENSE
The bill would make it a crime for a driver to operate outside the parameters of a conditional license--currently it is only a traffic violation.
This would apply to a conditional license holder on a public highway for an unauthorized purpose. Usually conditional licenses permit a driver to get to and from their place of employment.
Such operation would result in a misdemeanor charge and suspension of their vehicle registration for 90 days.
3. INCREASE PENALTIES FOR OPERATING A MOTOR VEHICLE WITH A SUSPENDED OR REVOKED LICENSE
The bill would require that any person convicted of aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the third degree would be subject to mandatory suspension of their vehicle registration for 60 days.
Any person convicted of aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the second degree would be subject to mandatory suspension of their vehicle registration for 120 days.
Any person convicted of aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle in the first degree would be subject to mandatory suspension of their vehicle registration for a full calendar year.
4. ESTABLISH GROUNDS TO IMPOUND A DRIVER’S PLATES
The bill would permit the arresting officer to remove the plates off a vehicle if the driver:
- Refuses a chemical test;
- Has a BAC of .20 or greater;
- Has had 3 DWIs within the last 5 years, or 5 DWIs within the past 10 years; or
- Is DWI with a child passenger under the age of 16.