The New York State Legislature is hard at work at passing new legislation related to DWI’s. The latest legislation to pass the State Senate and head to the State Assembly is a bill called Alix’s Law. The legislation is named after Alexandria “Alix” Rice, who was killed in an accident in 2011. The alleged driver of the vehicle, who was also charged with Driving While Intoxicated, was acquitted by a jury of the felony charges of leaving the scene of an accident and manslaughter. The driver was, however, convicted of DWI.
Alix’s Law would make it illegal to leave the scene of an accident if intoxicated. The law has passed the Senate four times, most recently by a vote of 56-0. While the bill has had overwhelming support in the Senate, it has continuously stalled in the Assembly. The stalling is blamed on Assemblyman Sheldon Silver, who has blocked the measure from going to the Assembly floor through the Transportation Committee.
The sponsor of the bill in the Senate, Patrick M. Gallivan, believes that the current law creates a loophole. Gallivan believes that a person who is intoxicated can leave the scene of an accident and then claim that they did not know or have reason to know they caused property damage or injury, which admonishes them to leave the scene of an accident. Gallivan had the following to say about the bill this time around,
“I urge the Assembly to do the right thing by bringing this bill to the floor for a vote…We must ensure that those who engage in reckless behavior that results in the death or injury of an innocent person are held responsible.”
Alix’s Law is certainly well-intentioned because it seeks to atone for the death of a teenager; however, should isolated instances of injustice warrant such legislative measures? Especially is the law appears redundant?
Alix’s law certainly appears as such because leaving the scene of an accident is already a crime. If a driver were to leave the scene of an accident right now (drunk or not), he/she could be charged with a crime. It’s not surprising that the measure has not made it to the Assembly floor since it would not really add any value to a well-established law.
The current law for leaving the scene of an accident without reporting is VTL 600. A minimal version is provided below as the statute itself is quite long:
“Any person operating a motor vehicle who, knowing or having cause to know that damage has been caused to the real property or to the personal property, not including animals, of another, due to an incident involving the motor vehicle operated by such person shall, before leaving the place where the damage occurred, stop, exhibit his or her license and insurance identification card for such vehicle, when such card is required pursuant to articles six and eight of this chapter, and give his or her name, residence, including street and number, insurance carrier and insurance identification information including but not limited to the number and effective dates of said individual’s insurance policy, and license number to the party sustaining the damage, or in case the person sustaining the damage is not present at the place where the damage occurred then he or she shall report the same as soon as physically able to the nearest police station, or judicial officer.
The burden of proof to show that a law was broken always rests on the prosecutor in a criminal matter. Therefore, it’s up to the state to prove that a defendant did in fact leave the scene of an accident in violation of the law. Adding another law to make leaving the scene of an accident while intoxicated would only be potentially beneficial in isolated instances.
While Alix’s case yielded an unfortunate result, the laws and statutes of this state should not be passed to rectify every nuanced situation or ineffective case presentation by a prosecutor that yields an unfavorable result. Laws should be passed to remedy problems that affect society as a whole, and bring balance to an unbalanced situation. VTL 600 already makes leaving the scene of an accident a crime, meaning that even a well-intentioned law, like Alix’s Law, is redundant and will have little impact going forward.
The exclusive purpose of this article is educational and it is not intended as either legal advice or a general solution to any specific legal problem. Corporate offices for Nave DWI Defense Attorneys are located at 432 N. Franklin Street, Suite 80, Syracuse, NY 13204; Telephone No.: 1-866-792-7800. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Attorney Advertising.