Spring 2004, p.14

Deadly Driver Laws Nixed by State Assembly
Daily News reveals that only 14% of killer drivers are charged. Assembly does not care.

As we went to press in early May, Albany insiders were reporting that the package of “Deadly Drivers” legislation championed by the governor is dead in the State Assembly. Late last year, the Daily News reported that between 2000 and 2002, motorists killed 580 New York City pedestrians, but only 80 motorists were charged with a crime. In response to the newspaper's “Save a Life, Change the Law” campaign, Governor Pataki proposed new laws that would hold killer drivers accountable for their actions. Prosecutors interviewed by the News confirmed T.A.’s long-time assertion that state law makes it almost impossible for prosecutors to convict even the most reckless killer drivers. According to Brooklyn District Attorney Maureen McCormick, under existing law, killer driver cases “are as heartbreaking as they are difficult to prove.”

Unfortunately, the State Assembly and its leader, Sheldon Silver, show no interest in holding deadly drivers accountable. Instead of treating the governor’s package as the beginning of a negotiating process and making a counter proposal, the Assembly has decided to stall and undermine laws that would start making killer drivers responsible for their actions. A February 27th Assembly hearing in New York City that was supposed to address killer driver legislation turned into a farce; Assembly members defused an emotional plea for action by Brooklyn Assistant District Attorney Maureen McCormick with a lengthy discussion about obscure legal procedures for handling evidence in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

The Governor’s deadly driver reform package would have:

  • Removed the District Attorney’s burden of proving criminal negligence when a driver under the influence seriously injures or kills someone, flees from a cop or violates traffic laws and has a history of infractions.
  • Given consecutive sentences to drivers who kill or seriously injure more than one person.
  • Boosted top penalties for deadly hit-and-run drivers from four to seven years in prison.
  • Cracked down on unlicensed drivers by requiring them to be fingerprinted, which would have made it harder for them to get new licenses under phony names.
  • Revoked licenses of drivers who break traffic laws and kill or seriously injure another person in the process.

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