Assembly Passes Leaf/Woods Bill

Also expected to pass is expansion of DNA Database, end of statue of limitations on rape and unlawfully fleeing a police officer.

Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli (D - Syracuse) announced the Assembly passed legislation he authored to increase penalties for repeat drunk drivers who subsequently kill or seriously injure others while driving drunk or under the influence of alcohol or drugs (A.10619-B).

Magnarelli said that the bill, honors the memory of two young Central New Yorkers who were killed by repeat drunk drivers.

Last March, while delivering Girl Scout cookies, Brandi Woods, a 15-year-old student from Memphis, NY, was killed by a drunk driver with three prior DWI arrests. The driver received a sentence of only 1 to 3 years in state prison. In January, Bill Leaf, a 25-year-old reporter for a Syracuse radio station, was killed by a drunk driver who also had a history of drinking and driving.

“People who drink and drive not only put their lives in jeopardy, but the lives all those around them as well. Current law does not adequately punish repeat drunk drivers. We need to create stiffer penalties for those repeat drunk drivers and give them a punishment they deserve,” stated Magnarelli. “This legislation will increase the penalties handed down to these drivers. By stiffening the penalties, hopefully we can make people think twice before deciding to drink and drive.”

The bill adds new subdivisions to the penal law for first-degree vehicular assault, a Class D felony which carries a penalty of up to 7 years in prison, and first-degree vehicular manslaughter, a Class C felony which carries a penalty of up to 15 years. The offender may be charged with these crimes if he or she injures or kills someone in an alcohol- or drug-related accident and has a prior DWI or drug-related conviction within the previous 10 years.

“It’s time that we help protect future generations from needless tragedies like the events that claimed the lives of Brandi Woods and Bill Leaf,” Magnarelli said. “We must enact measures to protect all New Yorkers by taking repeat drunk drivers off our streets.

“I have diligently worked with Senator DeFrancisco, the Woods and Leaf families, Janice Grieshaber and my colleagues in both houses to get this legislation passed before the end of session,” stated Magnarelli. “I would like to ‘Thank’ all of them for their hard work and dedication to this legislation.”

Also expected to be passed by both houses before the conclusion of the 2006 legislative session, are bills expanding New York state’s DNA databank, eliminating the criminal statute of limitations for felony rape cases and extending the civil statute of limitations in such cases and creating new crimes for unlawfully fleeing a police officer.

In honor of a State Police Officer from Geddes, who was killed when a speeding motorcyclist failed to obey the Trooper's directive to stop, resulting in a high speed chase and his police vehicle crashed into a tree during the pursuit. The Craig Todeschini Unlawful Fleeing a Police Officer Act, seeks to protect the safety of law enforcement officers and other individuals who are put in peril when a person drives recklessly to avoid being pulled over by a police officer.

“It is the hope of this Legislature to provide victims of crimes with every possible opportunity to seek justice, and to increase penalties to possibly avoid future crimes from happening.” stated Magnarelli. “If increasing the penalties for these actions can act as an effective deterrent and save just one life, it is well worth it.”