Suffolk DA Stands With Traffic Violence Victims — Will NYC DAs Follow Suit?

To get a district attorney to talk about traffic violence on camera, you have to go to Long Island. Image: WCBS
To get a district attorney to talk about traffic violence on camera, you have to go to Long Island. Image: WCBS

On Tuesday, New Yorkers tuned into the evening news might have seen a district attorney standing with victims of traffic violence. But the prosecutor wasn’t from one of the five boroughs.

WCBS reports:

The families of four victims killed in hit-and-run crashes in Suffolk County called on Albany on Tuesday to enact tougher sentences for drivers who flee the scene.

The families, accompanied by Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota and state senators, demanded that the maximum sentence be increased from seven to 15 years for hit-and-run drivers involved in fatal crashes, WCBS 880 Long Island Bureau Chief Mike Xirinachs reported.

Spota said the state’s current hit-and-run laws are too weak and there’s no incentive to stay at the scene, CBS2’s Jennifer McLogan reported.

“Because that person has the opportunity to get to their house, sober up, get rid of their car or hide their car or deny that they were the drivers of their vehicles,” Spota said.

Spota was speaking in support of a bill to elevate leaving the scene of a fatal crash to a class C felony. The bill passed the State Senate in 2013 and 2014 but stalled both sessions in Assembly Member David Gantt’s transportation committee.

With Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver under federal indictment, what happens in Albany this year is anyone’s guess, but it’s nonetheless encouraging to see a district attorney publicly calling on the state legislature to act on behalf of people who have lost loved ones to reckless drivers. (Kathleen Rice gained national recognition for prosecuting drunk drivers for murder during her tenure as district attorney in neighboring Nassau County.)

New York City prosecutors blame weak statutes for making it difficult to bring cases against motorists who injure and kill, yet with the exception of Brooklyn DA Ken Thompson, none have announced plans to work with Families For Safe Streets to hold reckless drivers accountable, much less have they joined victims in urging Albany to strengthen state law.

Queens DA Richard Brown and Bronx DA Robert Johnson are up for re-election in 2015. Staten Island DA Dan Donovan, whose term is also up this year, is running for Congress.

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