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Wrong way NY DUI prompts long reach to Georgia for law to protect kids

New York Governor David Patterson may be looking at a Georgia law to guide him in protecting children who are injured or killed when riding with an adult who is legally intoxicated. According to the Georgia Senate Press Office, Sen. Gail Buckner (D-Morrow) has "offered" her 1992 legislation to Patterson, as a model for a new New York State law he is crafting to stiffen penalties against impaired drivers who transport children.


A group of men hug as caskets are loaded into hearses at Our
Lady of Victory Roman Catholic Church in Flora Park, NY, July
30, 2009, following funeral mass for Diane Schuler,her 2-year-old
daughter, Erin Schuler, and nieces Kate Hance, Alyson Hance and
Emma Hance, all of whom died in a minivan going in the wrong di-
rection on a NY parkway and crashed on July 26, 2009, killing eight
people.(AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

Buckner, in announcing her intention to share her legislation with New York's governor, told her staff Wednesday, "An adult who drives while intoxicated should be stopped under any circumstances, but certainly when children are involved.”

Patterson is taking a closer look at his state's DWI laws, following the tragic death of four children who were riding the wrong way on a New York highway last month. Toxicology reports indicated that the driver, 36-year-old Diane Schuler, had a blood-alcohol content of 0.19. The tests also allegedly showed that she had taken marijuana into her system some time within the last hour before the crash, the New York Times reported.

The new law, called the Child Passenger Protection Act, would make it a felony for anyone caught with a DWI and a child under 17 years old in the car. It is currently a misdemeanor in the Empire State if an impaired driver is transporting children.

Amanda Scalzini, writing for DUIAttorney.com, points out that elevating the violation to a felony may mean that:

"the addition of a fatality [in a DWI related accident] implicates New York's felony murder law. Under the DWI felony murder scenario," she warns, "a person with a clean record would face 15 to 25 years in a New York State Prison."

Under the 1992 Georgia law that Buckner sponsored, if children under 14 years old are riding with a driver who was subsequently convicted of a DUI, that driver could also be convicted of a charge of reckless endangerment. "Under these stiffer penalties," the senate press release says, "offenders could face up to 20 years in prison if an alcohol-related crash results in the serious injury or death of a young passenger."

For more info: Buckner's bill was ammended, in the 1995-1996 legislative session, to add a provision for notifying child protective service agencies in the event of a child endangerment conviction arising from a DUI. Since the Georgia Legislature's website only goes back that far in its online archive, that is the best place to read the Georgia law.
According to reports earlier this month, Diane Schuler's drinking and drug use is being investigated by the Suffolk County, New York, Department of Child Protective Services. The result of an investigation may mean that Schuler's husband, Daniel,  could lose custody of his last surviving child.
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If you like my editorial bent, check out the archives on my blog, proseandthorn.net.

Comments

  • David Clark 4 years ago

    The problem with DUI laws is that we, as a society, are putting the decision to drive drunk in the hands of drunk people. Alcohol affects your judgment. Increasing penalties after the fact will have zero impact on the number of drunk drivers. They're drunk when they decide to drive, and they're not thinking about avoiding jail time. The answer is passive alcohol sensors in cars that cut off the ignition. Cops have these in flashlights today. It would cost a few dollars per car and significantly cut down on drunk driving. Breathalyzer-activated ignition interlock devices also work, but are more expensive. Let the device decide whether to start the car, not the drunk.

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