Legislation Imposes Additional Punishments on Drunk Drivers in New York

James M Wagman

In recent years, there has been an on-going campaign in New York and across the country to pass stricter laws against drinking and driving. This trend continues with the latest legislation proposed by Governor David A. Paterson to increase the penalties against drivers who are convicted of drunk driving offenses with a child passenger in the vehicle.

Child Passenger Protection Act

The Governor submitted the Child Passenger Protection Act (CPPA) to the state's legislature, which will consider the measure during this fall's term. If passed, New York will be the 36th state in the country to impose special punishment against impaired drivers who endanger child passengers.

Under the CPPA, drivers convicted of certain driving while intoxicated (DWI) offenses with a child passenger under 16 years old in the vehicle at the time of the offense will be charged with a felony. Under current law, such a violation is treated only as a misdemeanor.

Some of the new penalties under the Act include:

Aggravated vehicular homicide causing the death of a child passenger

  • Class B violent felony
  • Five to 25 years in prison

Aggravated vehicular assault causing serious injury to a child passenger

  • Class C violent felony
  • 3.5 to 15 years in prison

These charges only apply when the child is a passenger in the vehicle with the impaired driver and the impaired driver's actions caused the injury or death of the child.

DWI with child passenger in the car

  • Class E felony
  • Up to 4 years in prison

Driver with a BAC 0.08 percent or greater with child passenger in the car

  • Automatic license suspension while charges are pending
  • Automatic one year license suspension upon conviction

Additionally, the new law would require drivers convicted of a DWI offense with a child passenger in the vehicle to be treated as "serious offenders." These drivers also would be required to install ignition interlock devices (IID) in their vehicles for a period of one year.

The CPPA also would mandate that drivers with a previous conviction for DWI within 10 years of their current conviction for DWI with a child passenger automatically lose their driver's license for 18 months.

DWI Penalties in New York Continue to Escalate

This latest effort in the state to toughen the law against drunk drivers is nothing new. In fact, the state has been acting for years now to increase the penalties for drunk driving. For example, the legal drinking limit in New York was once 0.10 percent, but after federal pressure (and the threat of losing federal highway funding) the state lowered the legal limit to 0.08 percent.

The aggravated DWI law is another example. Until recently, anyone with a 0.08 percent BAC or greater was charged with a DWI, while someone with a 0.05 to 0.07 percent BAC would be charged with the lesser DWAI violation. But in 2006, New York passed a law creating an aggravated DWI offense for drivers with a BAC greater than 0.18. The law also increased the penalties for the more serious charge.

As the laws have become tougher, the DMV penalties also have increased. Where drivers once may have been able to obtain a conditional license after a DWI conviction, now in many cases drivers are not able to drive at all during their suspension periods. Alternatively, the court can require drivers to install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles before granting the conditional license. Drivers are required not only to pay the costs for installing the devices into their vehicles, but also must pay monthly service fees.

Conclusion

As the costs of a drunk driving conviction continue to increase, drivers cannot afford to face a DWI charge on their own. Even a first time offense in New York is estimated to cost $9500, which does not include the additional hardship caused by losing your driver's license and attending an alcohol education program

If you have been charged with a DWI or other drunk driving offense, contact an experienced attorney to learn more about defending against these charges. Having a DWI conviction on your record can continue to make your life difficult, even years after you have completed your punishment.