On August 1, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a DUI bill that extends the time frame for which multiple drunk driving offenses can be elevated to a felony. The felony DUI law significantly strengthens the state’s DUI laws and will help keep persistent drunk drivers off the road.
Under New York’s current DUI laws, a third DUI within 10 years becomes a class D felony. That means that if a repeat drunk driver commits a third DUI offense within 11 years, he or she would not be charged with a felony despite his or her habitual drunk driving behavior. A DUI also becomes a Class E felony if it’s the offender’s second offense within two years, but this provision will not be affected by the new law.
The newly enacted law extends the time frame for which a third DUI offense is considered a felony from 10 years to 15 years. Repeat drunk drivers convicted of a felony DUI will face a fine of up to $10,000 and up to seven years in jail. The law will not affect New York’s current ignition interlock law. Under the state’s interlock law, all convicted drunk drivers are required to install the device.
Known as Vince’s Law, the felony DUI law was named after Vincent Russo, an 82-year-old man who was killed by a drunk driver in 2011. The drunk driver not only had a blood alcohol content (BAC) level four times the legal limit of 0.08 but was a four-time convicted drunk driver awaiting a fifth DUI conviction. Yet, the drunk driver was free to get behind the wheel. Gov. Cuomo, bill sponsor Senator John DeFrancisco, and Paul Russo, Vincent’s brother, are hopeful that the new law will help get other habitual drunk drivers off the road and potentially save lives.
Vince’s Law will go into effect on November first and will only apply to DUI offenses that occur after that date.