Three Strikes Bill Would Terminate Licenses of Serial Dangerous Drivers

One of the more pernicious shortcomings of New York State’s slapdash traffic justice system is its failure to keep dangerous drivers off the road. As long as repeat offenders pay their fines and don’t get caught driving drunk, they can for the most part count on holding on to a drivers license, no matter how many tickets they receive, even if they cause a fatality.

Peter and Lillian Sabados of Staten Island were killed in 2009 by a driver who had a history of reckless driving and dozens of license suspensions.

A bi-partisan group of state legislators is pushing to terminate — permanently — the licenses of New York motorists who habitually break the law. Assembly Member James Tedisco, Republican from Schenectady and former minority leader, last week called on Governor Cuomo to get behind Charlotte’s Law, which would apply the “three strikes” principle to traffic code violations.

In January 2010, Schenectady pedestrian Charlotte Gallo was fatally struck by a driver who, according to the Times Union, had 23 prior citations for traffic offenses and had been involved in 10 crashes. His penalty for killing Gallo: a $100 fine for failure to yield and a one-year license revocation. Charlotte’s Law would permanently take away the licenses of those convicted of any of these offenses three or more times in 25 years: DUI or DWI; a violation of VTL 1146, which includes the state’s vulnerable user laws; or vehicular manslaughter.

“We have a lot of rights,” said Tedisco at a May 24 Capitol press conference. “[But] one of those rights isn’t the privilege to have a license to drive a car. It’s an important privilege, but it’s not a right. And when you take that irresponsibly, and you take that over and over and over again, to get in that vehicle and make it a two-ton weapon because you’re under the influence or you just don’t give a damn and you’re reckless … there comes a point where we just have to say ‘enough is enough.'”

Under the proposed legislation, a person caught behind the wheel after a permanent license revocation, regardless of the reason behind the traffic stop, would be subject to a felony charge and a jail sentence of up to four years.

Charlotte’s Law has two Assembly Democrats as co-sponsors: Peter Rivera of the Bronx and Fred Thiele from Suffolk County. The Senate version has two sponsors, both upstate Republicans. The Times Union reports that similar legislation, introduced by Brooklyn Republican Marty Golden, cleared the Senate in 2011.

A separate bill, introduced by Republican Assembly Member Nicole Malliotakis, would revoke a driver’s license and vehicle registration for 10 years following a third drunk driving conviction. That bill also passed the Senate last year.

In a letter to Cuomo [PDF], Tedisco asked the governor to use the power of his office to crack down on lawless driving.

“In addition to seeking your support for this measure,” wrote Tedisco, “I would respectfully ask you to do everything in your power, administratively, to implement the spirit of this legislation and permanently terminate driver’s license privileges of serial drunk and dangerous drivers.”

  • anonymous

    This definitely seems like an example of the punishment fitting the crime, but it could have pretty drastic effects for people in most parts of the country. You don’t have a right to drive, but you have a right to a lot of things that you need to be able to drive to do.  Given all that,  I think it would make more sense to punish DUI’s differently. If you injure people three time driving (drunk or sober), we should take your license away. If you get caught driving drunk three times, we should take away your right to be served liquor. This could be enforced by giving offenders a license like the ones under-21 year olds have now and increasing the punishment for anyone who gets caught driving drunk (or doing other criminal things while drunk) once he or she has lost the right to drink. 

  • Anonymous

    @34bc9c3ed528409f42c9c61de817b367:disqus : Nobody needs to drive. If your driving privilege is taken away because you are a menace to society, move to a real city like NY where most people don’t need to drive. Sure, moving is disruptive and inconvenient, but it sure beats moving into a prison, which is an alternative approach to the problem of two-ton weapons in the hands of people who are a menace to society.

  • If they aren’t felony convictions, I think this is off base.

  • Joe R.

    This is a step in the right direction except for two things. First off, I think if you kill someone while driving through your own fault, your license should be revoked forever after the first time. Same thing for DUI/DWI. Second, if you’re caught driving without a license, the car gets confiscated and auctioned off by the state. The only way to really keep people from driving without licenses is to take away their cars if they do. Few people can repeatedly afford to replace their cars.

    I have a gut feeling this law will eventually result in upwards of 50% of adults losing their licenses. That can only be a good thing in that there will be fewer cars on the road plus more demand for public transit.

  • Mark Walker

    While I agree with Joe R. that this law would result in a large percentage of existing drivers losing their licenses, so would consistent enforcement of existing laws. The purpose of this new law seems to be incremental — it would tighten loopholes so fewer rogue drivers (and rogue judges) would slip through. I also heartily agree with Joe R.’s concept of confiscating and disposing of cars. I’ve had the same thought for a long time. In fact, the livable streets movement would do well to start a dialogue on what offenses should led to confiscation, and arrive at a consensus with broad enough appeal to be codified into law.

  • Anonymous

    But will there be no consequences to having your license revoked if prosecutors can’t produce a YouTube video of the revokees reading their notices aloud? That’s the new standard, right?

    If so, I’d say that the law will result in about .00000000000000000000000000001 percent of adults losing their licenses.

  • Anonymous

    I think this is a great step, but I’m skeptical that it will result in a large percentage of people losing their licenses. Remember, they need to be *convicted three times* of certain serious offenses such as DUI, vehicular manslaughter, or failure to exercise due care. It is unlikely that someone will manage to commit vehicular manslaughter three times, and VTL 1146 goes largely unenforced. This leaves us basically with DUI/DWI. How many people manage to get convicted of DUI/DWI three times? I don’t know but I suspect it’s not a large percentage of the driving population. I’d guess it’s way less than 1%.

  • Joe R.

    @qrt145:disqus Even if this bill doesn’t result in large numbers of drivers losing their licenses as I suspect it will, it will at least signal a sea change in the cultural mindset that having a driver’s license is sacrosanct. That in turn may result in more offenses qualifying for the three strikes. It’s about time we as a society realized that we shouldn’t be forced to allow proven dangerous drivers to continue to drive just because they claim they can’t get to work or do other things without a license.

  • Ben Kintisch

    Little by little, the NYS legislature is standing up for the safety of people. This is a big change from just standing up for drivers and their “right” to drive.

  • Marcus

    I am all for stronger licensing standards, and revocation of licenses for dangerous drivers. There is no guaranteed “right” to operate heavy machinery, nor should there be, when the lives of others are in the balance.

  • Anonymous

    What is the penalty in New York for driving without a license?  Worse than the penalty for fatally hitting someone while committing a traffic violation?

  • Anonymous

    I am starting to like the Republicans! they are usually the most opposed to change, for them to switch against the drivers is a very good indicator of a deep change in the culture..

    If we can get the Right as obsessed with other people’s driving as they are with other people’s sex life, we will win the war on criminal drivers.

  • Wow, this would be brilliant!

  • @Roger87:disqus Hopefully they address that too.  I’d like to see the offender’s car crushed and burned in front of them.

  • Anonymous

    @YellowRex — I’d prefer to see the criminal penalty (up to 4 yrs imprisonment, as mentioned in the article) for getting the third strike, not for being caught driving after having a license revoked for getting a third strike.  Driving without a license, if it’s not revoked or suspended, will usually just get you a fine — so the guy with two strikes could just cancel his license and voila, no license to revoke.

  • Penny Truex

    These laws are life threatening and will ruin the lives of thousands of people who have not hurt anyone to save the lives of a few. They will also breakup families and cause economic devastation and jjob loss,resulting in a high cost to the society at large.

  • Penny Truex

    They are counting.07,which is not even a charge in most states,exactly like a DWI. Think about it. 25 years back plus speeding tickets!

  • Alvin. F

    Thank God those of you who are in favor of this barbaric law are not involved in Politics. “Alcoholism” and “Drug Addiction” are diseases and should be dealt with accordingly, penalizing an “Alcoholic” for the rest of their life is completely absurd. Hey I have a better idea, how about banning Alcohol completely, then anyone caught with an alcoholic beverage can be sentenced to… lets say DEATH. Wouldn’t this be a great solution? It’s a win win. I think this would completely fix many issues in our wonderful society, lets see… for one it would prevent DWI’s, Rape, Assaults, Fighting, Hunting Accidents, Boating Accidents, Shootouts, public intoxication, disorderly conduct shall I continue? (I don’t think so)

    Clearly the punishment does not fit the crime here “LIFE??” Really? Lets screw you for the rest of your poor life, yes I said POOR, at least I know those who were and are poor had no chance to begin with due to the fact that they couldn’t afford a Suitable Legal Defense to have the original DWI’s dropped to a lower non moving violation in the first place. So yes this will affect mainly the poor as well as the poor souls who plead guilty and served their time prior to knowing what our great NYS Governor Cuomo and the Wonderful Barbara J. Fiala had up there sleeves for September 2012. hmm September, this month seems rather familiar to me.

    I think this has gone way to far, mainly because it was decided to make this retroactive and are punishing those who have already served their sentences and punishments that were handed down by the Courts and Fines paid to both the DMV and the Courts. The NYS Department of Motor Vehicles states that driving is a privilege, really? Tell that to Judge next time your in criminal court for a driving privilege violation, maybe you’ll have the privilege in being sent to JAIL.

    Really folks people make mistakes, some more than others but to punish someone for the rest of there life, is completely wrong, addiction recovery is a reality and many recover just fine. People change everyday, I hear Judge Mathis speak of change on his Court Room show regularly. Punishing people twice for the same offence is not what our Great COUNTRY is about. We are the USA and we should stand together during easy times and hard times. People drink for many different reasons, some people go threw really trying times and life changing moments, it’s sad. If I could help our Country and our WORLD I would but I don’t have the means to do so, so it’s up to each and every one of us to do our part as a US Citizen, together we stand together we fall. Next time you see someone fall, stop and help them up. It’s what I’m about, if I can help I will.

    So your maybe thinking if I myself am involved in this DWI Permanent drivers licence denial/revocation fiasco, I’ll leave it to your imagination, but I’ll say this.

    Change can happen, I AM LIVING PROOF. Enjoy!!

    Alvin. F

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