Making Our Communities Safer

July 28, 2006

What is more important than the safety and well-being of our families? That’s why I worked hard during the 2006 legislative session to toughen crime laws and better protect our loved ones.

Keeping criminals and sexual deviants off our streets

The Legislature passed a bill that will eliminate the criminal statute of limitations on Class B felony sex crimes (A.12012). Under current law, once the statute of limitations has expired, sexual assault victims are prohibited from seeking legal recourse. The Legislature’s agreement corrects this injustice so people who commit the most serious crimes of rape or sexual assault don’t get off the hook simply because they’ve gotten away with it for so long.

In the interest of justice and fairness, the Assembly fought to eliminate the civil statute of limitations for serious sex crimes as well, but the Senate refused to consider it. Instead, the civil statute will merely be extended from 1 to 5 years. By refusing to eliminate the civil statute of limitations and setting such a small window of time to file a civil suit, the Senate is doing little to help the traumatized victim, and is protecting the criminal who committed the unconscionable act. However, the Legislature’s agreement is a step forward and I strongly urge the governor to quickly make this legislation law before one more rape victim loses a chance to hold his or her attacker responsible.

The Legislature also passed legislation I supported to expand New York’s criminal DNA database to include all persons convicted of felonies and serious misdemeanors, while providing privacy safeguards at the same time (A.11951-A). Advancements in technology and the use of forensic DNA evidence have changed the landscape of crime investigation and have enabled police to track down criminals that years ago would have escaped justice. Expanding New York’s DNA database to include all crimes will not only give New York the most extensive database in the nation, it will enact the most effective system for using forensic DNA evidence and provide the privacy safeguards which are necessary to prevent the misuse of this powerful tool.

Toughening DWI penalties

People who drink and drive not only put their lives in jeopardy, but the lives of those around them as well. The current law does not adequately punish repeat drunk drivers. Brandi Woods was a 15-year-old student from Memphis, N.Y., who was killed while delivering Girl Scout cookies on March 17, 2005 – by a drunk driver with three prior DWI arrests. The driver received a sentence of only 1-3years. Bill Leaf was a 25-year-old reporter for Syracuse’s WSYR radio station, who was killed by a drunk driver on Jan. 8 of this year. The driver also had a history of driving while intoxicated.

Working with Maria Leaf, Bill’s sister, and members of the Woods family, I introduced the Bill Leaf–Brandi Woods Law, which increases penalties for repeat drunk drivers who kill or seriously injure others while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. By stiffening these penalties, we can hopefully make people think twice before deciding to drink and drive.

I am committed to improving the safety of our communities and neighborhoods. It is important that our families feel safe and protected. That’s why I fought to toughen crime penalties – to catch and keep offenders off the street and deter others from committing senseless crimes.