Gov. Andrew Cuomo Friday signed into law a drunken driving bill that gives New York State judges the power to impose stricter penalties on those repeatedly convicted of driving while intoxicated.
Vince’s Law passed both the state Senate and the Assembly in early June. It’s named after 82-year-old Vincent Russo who tragically died in 2011 while driving to Sunday morning mass when he was struck head-on by a drunk driver in upstate Onondaga County. The driver was awaiting sentencing for a fifth DWI conviction when he slammed into the victim’s vehicle.
“Motorists who repeatedly drive drunk are a danger to themselves and everyone else on the road, and they have no place behind the wheel,” Cuomo said.
The law—an amendment to legislation currently on the books—extends to 15 years from 10 the time frame in which multiple DWIs can be considered for a potential felony. If convicted under Vince’s Law, drunk drivers could face up to seven years in prison, and a fine up to $10,000.
Officials said the law is intended to keep repeat offenders off the road.
“Too many innocent lives of New Yorkers were taken because of those who chose to drink and drive,” said Assemb. Samuel Roberts (D-Syracuse), who sponsored the bill.
Russo’s family reportedly lobbied lawmakers for stricter DWI penalties.
Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, who is running for Congress, applauded the Russo family for fighting for harsher penalties.
“The courageous family of a victim has spoken out to bring legislative change and this new law is a first step toward the Russo family’s goal to see stronger punishments for drunk drivers with long histories of DWIs,” Rice said in a statement to the Press.
Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota told the Press through a spokesman that “increasing the punishment for the worst recidivist drunk drivers…is precisely the right message to send to violators who have clearly shown contempt for the law.”