AM New York – “Drunk Drivers” Beware Proposal

“Drunk Drivers” Beware Proposal would give repeat DWI offenders special platesBy: Chuck Bennett AmNew York WriterState lawmakers proposed a law yesterday to brand repeat drunk drivers with distinctive license plates, a move some hailed as a potential lifesaver and others deemed a modern day “Scarlet Letter.”

“Repeat DWI offenses are unacceptable,” Sen. Nick Spano (R- Westchester), coauthor of the bill told amNew York. “This is a stigma that they deserve.”

Spano wants New Yorkers convicted of driving while intoxicated three times in five years, or five times in ten years, to have a specialized license plate identifying them as drunk drivers.

The plates will use a series of letters or numbers set by the police – not an obvious “Scarlet Letter”- but Spano said he expects the public to quickly learn the code.

“What it is attempting to do is to get at the hardcore drunk driver, the repeat offender,” Donna Kopec, executive director of New York Mothers Against Drunk Driving, told amNew York. “It’s really just so police know that the driver has a potential to be drunk and perhaps needs to be stopped and checked.”

Already other states have adopted similar measures. Repeat drunk drivers in Ohio have bright orange plates and in Iowa, police can legally pull over convicted drunk drivers without cause.

Paul Petrus Jr., a criminal defense attorney, said, “It is reminiscent of the Scarlet Letter,” referring to Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel about a colonial adulteress forced to wear a red “A” on her dress.

Michael Fineman, a criminal defense attorney who used to work on the Drunk Driving Task Force at the Brooklyn District Attorney’s Office said, “ It sounds like Megan’s Law for drunk drivers,” referring to the mandatory registration of sex offenders. “It does seem unfair on one hand, but if you’re a repeat offender, you have a problem” he told amNew York.

In a statement, the New York City liberties Union said parts of the bills are “misguided and poorly drafted” because innocent family members of drunk drivers will be impacted.


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