Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,I,C-Batavia) today said motorists convicted of driving while intoxicated can expect stiffer punishment after Thursday’s passage of an Assembly bill to escalate penalties when a victim of drunk driving is injured or killed as a result of a crash.
In July 2005, Katie Flynn and Stan Rabinowitz were killed by a drunk driver on Long Island while driving home in a limousine after a family wedding. Flynn was just 7 years old at the time.
Martin Heidgen was convicted of murder for having exhibited depraved indifference to human life, as he drove north for more than two miles in a southbound lane on a divided highway. He registered a blood alcohol level of 0.28, more than three times the legal limit in New York state.
The bill targets those, like Heidgen, who engage in reckless driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs where someone is killed and makes vehicular homicide punishable by up to 25 years in prison. Aggravated vehicular assault would be punishable by up to 15 years under the new law.
The law would also apply to drivers who cause a fatal crash and are under the influence of drugs or alcohol and have a blood alcohol content of more than 0.18 or have been convicted of a D.W.I. within the last 10 years.
Hawley says that in the wake of the 20-year anniversary of the deaths of three Pembroke students and their teacher, at the hands of a drunk driver, he and the entire community are reminded of the importance of tougher laws against drunk drivers so that no family experiences such a tragedy again.
“This bill is going to make sure that people who choose to get behind the wheel while intoxicated pay the price for their heinous, wreckless crimes,” said Hawley. “Too often D.W.I. offenders get off easy. With tougher penalties passed last year combined with this year’s efforts to strengthen D.W.I. laws, the message is being sent that driving drunk is not something I, or this Legislature, will take lightly.”