Cuomo and State Legislature Get Tough on Drunk Drivers
Vince’s Law to Take Effect November 1, 2014
The New York Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL) will impose harsher penalties on repeat drunk drivers next month, thanks to the combined efforts of Governor Cuomo and the State Legislature. Effective November 1, 2014, individuals who have been convicted of driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol 3 or more times within the past 15 years are automatically charged with a felony offense. As a result, repeat offenders now face up to 7 years in jail when they are found guilty of an alcohol related driving offense 3 times within a 15-year period. More time behind bars is not the only change enacted by this legislation. Repeat offenders can expect to take a bigger hit to their wallet with fines ranging from $2,000 up to $10,000 in addition to imprisonment for the 7-year period.
Offenses fall into discrete categories under the VTL. An offense may be classified as a traffic infraction, a violation, a misdemeanor or a felony. Felonies are those offenses for which a sentence to a term of imprisonment in excess of one year may be imposed. Misdemeanor means an offense, other than a “traffic infraction” for which a sentence to a term of imprisonment in excess of 15 days may be imposed but to which a sentence to a term of imprisonment in excess of one year cannot be imposed. An offense other than a traffic infraction for which a sentence to a term of imprisonment in excess of fifteen days cannot be imposed is considered a violation under the VTL. Unlike the other offenses described above, a traffic infraction is not a crime and the punishment imposed cannot be deemed a penal or criminal punishment. Thus, the least severe offenses are traffic infractions, while the most egregious offenses are those offenses classified as felonies under the VTL.
Expanding the scope of the felony offense category under the VTL to include offenders with 3 prior convictions within 15 years serves the primary basis of this new legislation- termed “Vince’s Law” after the man who died after a fatal collision with a drunk driver in Liverpool, New York in July 2011. By increasing jail time and imposing higher fines, repeat offenders are kept off the roads, promoting motorist safety overall, laudable goals indeed.