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Punish drunks who kill at the wheel
NY Daily News ^ | December 01 2003

Posted on 12/01/2003 10:11:54 AM PST by knighthawk

In case after tragic case, the Daily News has spotlighted how New York lets negligent drivers go unpunished after they take lives. Turning a car into a deadly weapon does not in most cases amount to a hill of legal beans.

The fault rests with the state's penal law and how the courts have come to interpret it over time. Prosecutors cannot convict a driver of criminally negligent homicide or manslaughter without proving that the driver had committed at least two serious traffic violations, such as both speeding and running a red light.

Almost always, this so-called rule of two is an insurmountable obstacle to lodging criminal charges, leaving the families of the deceased to suffer both the grief of loss and a perversion of justice. The statistics speak for themselves. Only one in five drivers involved in fatal accidents in New York is charged criminally.

The Legislature must reform the law, and the best place to start is with drunken or drugged-up drivers. The statutes should be rewritten to state that you are guilty of the felonius taking of a life if you are intoxicated and kill someone while driving. Simple as that.

Some might be surprised to discover that taking a life while bombed behind the wheel is not by itself grounds for a charge of, say, manslaughter. That would happen now only if a soused driver fell afoul of the rule of two by doing something else wrong at the time, such as speeding.

The results are outrageous because the drivers are punished only for being drunk. In Queens recently, Michael Carrillo was sentenced to a $1,000 fine, community service and three years' probation after fatally running down Michael Kallas while intoxicated. In Suffolk County, Michelle April got a similar sentence after killing two men.

Legislative leaders and Gov. Pataki have responded to The News' campaign with promises of toughening the laws. Similar vows have come to naught in the past, largely because of fears that stricter rules could ensnare drivers who stumbled into pure accidents or were simply careless.

Those are minimal concerns when an intoxicated driver kills. Drunken driving is, on its face, a display of gross negligence, if not criminal recklessness. That's why drunken driving is already a crime on its own. Making it grounds for a tougher felony charge when someone dies is reasonable and appropriate.

Yes, it's possible that a drunken driver might kill someone through no fault of his own - let's say that a pedestrian darts from between parked cars, leaving a driver with no time to respond. To prevent the injustice of a wrongful conviction, the law should be written to allow a driver to present an affirmative defense that his intoxication did not contribute to the death or prevent him from avoiding it.

The burden would then be where it belonged: on the shoulders of the person who endangered everyone who came close to his 2-ton, out-of-control deadly weapon.

Save a Life, Change the Law, starting with drunken drivers.


TOPICS: News/Current Events; US: New York
KEYWORDS: drunkdriving; drunks; punish; wheel

1 posted on 12/01/2003 10:11:54 AM PST by knighthawk
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To: MizSterious; rebdov; Nix 2; green lantern; BeOSUser; Brad's Gramma; dreadme; Turk2; keri; ...
Ping
2 posted on 12/01/2003 10:12:27 AM PST by knighthawk (And for the name of peace, we will prevail)
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To: knighthawk
Drivers using cell phones kill more people every year than the terrorists killed when they flew two planes into the World Trade Center. Drunk drivers kill about five times as many. Yet our society tolerates it.
3 posted on 12/01/2003 10:18:27 AM PST by JoeFromCA
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To: knighthawk
Oh, can the DUI hysterics. 1.6 million people are arrested annually in the U.S. for DUI. With the 0.08 BAC laws, this is bound to increase, and ruin the lives of a large number of social drinkers who pose no threat to other drivers. Many serve mandatory minimum prison sentences, lose jobs because of transportation problems, and are bankrupted by fines and lawyer's fees - and it often stems from a conviction for a crime of being less impaired than the average cell phone user, or a mother with an unruly child.

This is not to condone real drunken drivers -- at BAC 0.14 and above, the level of fatalities in alcohol-related crashes jumps dramatically. We don't need to become a police state to catch those guys - better police work and more awareness will do just fine. 0.08 BAC laws are simply a precursor to MADD's real agenda: VIRTUAL PROHIBITION.

4 posted on 12/01/2003 10:24:52 AM PST by bassmaner (Let's take the word "liberal" back from the commies!!)
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To: bassmaner
Here's what I don't understand...if you can't drive after having something like one beer, why on Earth are bars still open? I mean, couldn't cops just sit outside of the neighborhood bar and arrest everyone as they get into their car?
5 posted on 12/01/2003 10:28:02 AM PST by Hildy
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To: bassmaner
Bingo dude.
6 posted on 12/01/2003 10:28:10 AM PST by Conspiracy Guy (Ignorance can be corrected with knowledge. Stupid is permanent.)
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To: Hildy
I got arrested for DUI one night. It seems that the cops were stopping every driver on that particular stretch of sidewalk. I got off when my lawyer proved that this was profiling.
7 posted on 12/01/2003 10:32:33 AM PST by Conspiracy Guy (Ignorance can be corrected with knowledge. Stupid is permanent.)
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To: Hildy
Here's what I don't understand...if you can't drive after having something like one beer, why on Earth are bars still open? I mean, couldn't cops just sit outside of the neighborhood bar and arrest everyone as they get into their car?

That's what known as "virtual prohibition". Like the original drug warriors like Harry Anslinger that used "Reefer Madness" hysteria to whip up fears of black jazz musicians having sex with white women that were plied with the devil weed to justify outlawing marijuana in the 1930's, today's MADD harpies use the unfortunate images of highway carnage to push a renewed alcohol prohibition. They don't even bother with the fig leaf of attempting to pass a Constitutional Amendment, like the original temperance movement used to codify Prohibition - it's unnecessary because the precedent has been set with the unconstitutional War on (some) Drugs.

8 posted on 12/01/2003 10:38:12 AM PST by bassmaner (Let's take the word "liberal" back from the commies!!)
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To: knighthawk
The burden would then be where it belonged: on the shoulders of the person who endangered everyone who came close to his 2-ton, out-of-control deadly weapon.

Yeah, good idea. Toss out presumed innocence for the drinkers of the world.

It seems the "rule of two" makes perfect sense. If I'm not drunk and I accidentally kill someone, I'm not arrested and tried for killing them.

The prohibitionists have done a good job at creating social taboos against drunk driving. Honestly. It's not a good thing to do, and it can be a deadly activity. But creating the opportunity for unjust prosecutions is going too far.

9 posted on 12/01/2003 10:44:17 AM PST by Mr. Bird
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To: bassmaner
Oh, you're just soft on DUI drivers. You probably drink and drive all the time yourself. Baby killer! I agree with you. While those who cause accidents due to DUI, or any other sort of negligence, shoud be punished fairly severely, ruining someone for having a BAC over .08 seems unnecessarily harsh to me. Especially on a first offense. Inveterate drunk drivers who have repeated citations for DUI, drive while suspended, and/or are responsible for accidents should be jailed. Also, to automatically assume that any driver who is DUI and in an accident is responsible for the accident goes against the traditions of our legal system. Just for example, if I'm drunk and someone rear ends me and kills himself in the process, it would clearly be unfair to charge me with his death.
10 posted on 12/01/2003 10:47:20 AM PST by -YYZ-
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To: bassmaner
I agree with you. I used to drink (don't any more).

A person's ability to handle alcohol varies widely. For that matter, an alcoholic usually develops a tolerance to alcohol and a .8 blood level would have almost no effect on them.

Someone who does not drink however, may not be able to walk, much less drive with a .8 blood level. The level of alcohol in the blood is not what they should be testing. It says very little about the condition of the individual.
11 posted on 12/01/2003 10:48:19 AM PST by babygene (Viable after 87 trimesters)
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To: knighthawk
The state which elected Hillary.
12 posted on 12/01/2003 10:51:00 AM PST by truth_seeker
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To: knighthawk
Save a Life, Change the Law, starting with drunken drivers.

Perhaps Ted Kennedy could champion a law such as this . He could start by turning himself in.

13 posted on 12/01/2003 10:51:10 AM PST by 1Old Pro
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To: knighthawk
Punish drunks and dopers that kill behind the wheel!
14 posted on 12/01/2003 10:52:58 AM PST by Destructor
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To: Destructor
Now you did it. There will be lots of those Liberal guys all over this thread now.
15 posted on 12/01/2003 10:58:47 AM PST by knighthawk (And for the name of peace, we will prevail)
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To: Destructor
Punish drunks and dopers that kill behind the wheel!

Those that are truly impaired: absolutely.

16 posted on 12/01/2003 11:00:47 AM PST by bassmaner (Let's take the word "liberal" back from the commies!!)
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To: 1Old Pro
Perhaps Ted Kennedy could champion a law such as this . He could start by turning himself in.

LOL!

17 posted on 12/01/2003 11:01:51 AM PST by bassmaner (Let's take the word "liberal" back from the commies!!)
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To: Destructor
Aren't there laws on the books already that deal with vehicular manslaughter?
18 posted on 12/01/2003 11:06:24 AM PST by Michael Barnes ("Free Speech is alive and well in London,we have that at home too. They now have that right in Iraq")
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To: Mr. Bird
"It seems the "rule of two" makes perfect sense. If I'm not drunk and I accidentally kill someone, I'm not arrested and tried for killing them."

Well, to be exact, you're not necessarily arrested and tried for killing them. You might be, if your actions were judged to be negligent and the cause of the death. The same should be true for DUI drivers. I can also think of a variety of "accidents" that sober people regularly get away with but that I believe should result in serious consequences. But it's not a popular idea to hold people responsible for the consequences of their actions if they are poor drivers. "It's just an accident," they say.
19 posted on 12/01/2003 11:08:36 AM PST by -YYZ-
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To: -YYZ-
You are correct. I was using the term "accidentally" quite literally, meaning there was no negligence involved. I just drove round-trip to Indy from Baltimore this weekend and encountered dozens of wholly obscene drivers.
20 posted on 12/01/2003 11:26:53 AM PST by Mr. Bird
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To: Flurry
"I got arrested for DUI one night. It seems that the cops were stopping every driver on that particular stretch of sidewalk. I got off when my lawyer proved that this was profiling."

...So- just how many people WERE driving on that particular strech of SIDEWALK? :-)
21 posted on 12/01/2003 11:30:23 AM PST by geopyg (Democracy, whiskey, sexy)
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To: geopyg
I don't know for sure.
22 posted on 12/01/2003 12:09:29 PM PST by Conspiracy Guy (Ignorance can be corrected with knowledge. Stupid is permanent.)
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To: unix
"Aren't there laws on the books already that deal with vehicular manslaughter?"

I just wanted to take the opportunity to remind everyone that drunks are not the only ones responsible for the carnage on our nation's roads. Druggies are doing their part to add to it as well!

23 posted on 12/02/2003 5:15:35 AM PST by Destructor
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