New York Governor Andrew Cuomo recently revealed a proposal to increase the penalties for repeat DWI offenders. Governor Cuomo’s plan calls for permanent license revocation for any driver with three (3) DWI convictions over their lifetime. This approach, termed “three strikes and you’re out,” has now been included in the state’s budget as an amendment. While some lawmakers eagerly support the DWI inclusion in the budget, the Staten Island delegation is divided on the issue.
Assemblyman Matthew Titone (D-North Shore) opposes the inclusion of the DWI bill within the budget. Titone believes that including the bill in the budget is inappropriate and confusing. However, Assemblywoman Nicole Mallitokis (R-East Shore/Brooklyn) disagrees with Titone, and is actively advocating for the bill’s inclusion alongside State Senators Diane Savino (D-North Shore/Brooklyn), Marty Golden (R-Brooklyn), and Andrew Lanza (R-Staten Island). Mallitokis notes that the proposed increase of DWI fines will be revenue producers for the state, and should therefore be included in the budget.
The DWI proposal is widely supported by state Republicans as a measure to decrease DWIs and related fatalities. Mallitokis stated, “If someone is killed, it will be at the fault of Assembly Democrats. In general, they don’t support increasing penalties for criminals.” However, Titone maintains that the bill should be considered separate from the budget, stating, “This is something that should be done outside the budget. It has no fiscal implication. The Assembly (Democratic) majority is confused.”
New York already has harsh penalties on the books for DWI convictions. DWI, or driving while intoxicated, is the charge brought against a driver whose blood alcohol content (BAC) level is 0.08% or higher. Whenever a driver’s BAC has reached 0.08%, they are considered intoxicated and therefore cannot legally drive. This charge is more commonly known as “drunk driving,” and already results in steep penalties upon conviction. A first time offender faces up to 1 year in jail, a fine up to $1,000, a surcharge of $400, a 6-month license revocation, and a requirement to install and maintain an ignition interlock device for up to 1 year. Current law allows penalty increases for repeat DWI offenders, including increases in potential jail time, fines, and the period of license revocation. However, the current law is not as strict on repeat offenders as Gov. Cuomo’s proposal.
Recent DMV regulation changes have also increased penalties for some repeat offenders who are defined as “persistently dangerous drivers.” Any driver with five (5) or more alcohol/drugged driving convictions in their lifetime is now deemed a persistently dangerous driver and may be subject to permanent license denial. Permanent license denial may now also apply to drivers who have three (3) or four (4) alcohol/drugged driving related convictions and one or more serious driving offenses within a 25-year period. Recently, a New York judge upheld these regulations on constitutional grounds.
The legislature continues to battle about the budget and whether the DWI proposal should stand by itself. If the DWI budget amendment is defeated, there is certainly a chance that the proposal will live on as a separate bill.
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