The New York State Legislature has passed a bill targeting repeat DWI offenders that seeks to significantly increase penalties for some convicted drivers. Both houses of the State Legislature passed Vince’s Law in June 2014. The bill was signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo in August 2014. Vince’s Law will impose strict penalties on drivers convicted of three or more DWIs within 15 years.
The current state law does carry penalties for repeat DWI offenders. Drivers who commit a DWI within 10 years of a prior conviction or convictions for an alcohol-related offense (other than DWAI) may be charged with a Felony DWI. Under the current repeat offender law, a driver convicted of Felony DWI can face up to 7 years in prison, a maximum fine of $10,000, and a driver’s license revocation for up to 18 months. New York’s DWI laws are known for being the nation’s toughest, and Felony DWI laws are no exception.
Vince’s Law is poised to increase both the statute of limitations (from 10 to 15 years) and the potential penalties a convicted driver will face. This bill has been a long time coming. The bill’s namesake, Vince Russo of Onondaga County, was struck and killed by a drunk driver in 2011. Russo, 82, was on his way to church at the time of the accident. The driver had five prior DWI convictions at the time. The Russo family and the community was rocked by the tragedy. Paul Russo, Vince’s brother, has been pushing for a tougher repeat offender law since Vince’s death. For over three years Paul tried to convince the State Legislature of the benefits of this law. Now Vince’s Law is that much closer to becoming a reality.
The proposed law would apply to drivers convicted of three or more DWIs within 15 years. Under the law, those drivers could be charged with a Class D felony, and face up to 7 years in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. The extended time frame of the driver’s past DWI is a critical component of Vince’s Law. If the bill becomes law, prosecutors will be able to look beyond the current 10-year limitation when charging drivers under Vince’s Law.
Like all repeat offender laws, Legislators hope Vince’s Law will deter DWIs and prevent future DWI-related injuries and deaths. State Senator John Flanagan, who has shown strong support for Vince’s Law, stated, “Those who continue to disregard the safety of other drivers by drinking and driving must be kept off our roadways. Too many New York State families have been devastated by these thoughtless criminals every year and this legislation will help make sure that those who drink and drive are held accountable for their actions.”
New York drivers already face strict penalties for even a first-time DWI conviction. Drivers convicted of just one DWI can spend up to a year in jail; face a $1,000 fine, license revocation, and more. If Governor Cuomo signs Vince’s Law, New York drivers will face yet another tough DWI law with harsh criminal consequences.
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