Confusing DWI Laws in New York

We reported in a recent blog that New York Governor Pataki signed into law a bill that set stiff penalties for repeat New York DWI offenders. But a second bill was signed at the same time is at odds with the first.

The highly touted Bill Leaf-Brandi Woods bill establishes that a drunk driver previously convicted of DWI within 10 years who causes an accident that results in death will be charged with 1st degree vehicular manslaughter.

The second law sets differing numbers of DWI arrests within two timeframes as the threshold for being charged with 1st degree vehicular manslaughter; 2 or more DWI convictions within the past five years or 3 or more DWI arrests within ten years.

It is unknown which law prosecutors will employ. A New York District Attorney feels the intent of both laws is good but predicts confusion in the courtroom. New York DWI defense attorneys feel the conflicting DWI laws raise constitutional issues as they establish two different rules of conduct.

Anti-drunk driving organizations want the new DWI laws send a message to those who drink and drive.

A spokesman for the New York Governor said both legislative bills had good provisions that warranted their simultaneous enactment into law. He anticipates, however, that the New York State legislature will attempt to clean up contradictions between the bills in a future session.

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