New York State Senators passed a bill that would strengthen drunken driving laws by linking convictions for alcohol related offenses in automobiles, boats, snowmobiles and ATVs.
Known as Tiffany’s Law, the bill would require all prior convictions of operating a vehicle while intoxicated, whether it be an automobile (DWI), snowmobile (SWI), or all-terrain vehicle, to be considered during sentencing of a subsequent Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) conviction.
Under current law, repeat DWI, BWI, or SWI offenders are subject to increased penalties, including license revocation, fines, and incarceration. However, because there is no current link between these offenses, it is possible to be convicted in separate cases of DWI, BWI, SWI, or operating an ATV while intoxicated and be treated as a first time offender in each instance.
Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, who represents Massena, Potsdam and other parts of St. Lawrence County, supports the bill. He said any person convicted of BWI would have that charge considered during any subsequent DWI, SWI or ATV offense.
“If you're operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, it shouldn't matter if the vehicle is two tons or two hundred pounds," said Senator Griffo. "The operator is engaging in dangerous and irresponsible behavior. We need relentless effort to combat irresponsible behavior that destroys property, endangers public safety and jeopardizes health."
The legislation is named after Tiffany Heitkamp, a young Syracuse-area woman who was killed in 2006 while riding in a boat being operated by an intoxicated driver. The driver of the boat had a record of alcohol-related automobile incidents, but because there is no link between DWIs, BWIs, and SWIs, he could only be charged as if it was his first offense.
Griffo noted that this bill has passed the Senate before and he urged the Assembly to take up the bill during this Session.
Senate bill 1790 has been sent to the Assembly.