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New York State issues "emergency" drunk driving regulations

The State of New York has decided to say "when" to drunk and drugged drivers. Under new "emergency" regulations just issued, drivers with five or more drunk or drugged driving convictions over their lifetime will have their licenses permanently revoked. Three or more intoxicated driving convictions plus at least one serious traffic offense within a 25 year period will also lead to permanent revocation. This is the first time that Empire State motorists have ever faced the prospect of losing their driving privileges for life after being convicted of multiple drunk or drugged driving crimes.

New York drivers whose conduct is not quite so egregious will see lesser penalties. Racking up four alcohol or drug-related driving convictions but without causing a serious accident or being convicted of a major traffic offense will delay reissue of a driver's license for at least five years. Drivers with alcohol-related convictions will have to install an alcohol interlock system for five years, requiring them to blow booze-free breath into a Breathalyzer-like computer before the car will start. The state legislature has been trying to toughen penalties for years but not much has come of their work. Governor Andrew Cuomo, apparently growing impatient, ordered the state's Department of Motor Vehicles to issue the emergency regulations and start enforcing them.

Governor Cuomo, in announcing the new rules, said, "This comprehensive effort will make New York safer, by keeping these drivers off our roadways." Whether permanently revoking a chronic drunk or drugged driver's license will actually stop him from driving remains to be seen. It could be argued that people who are willing to break the laws prohibiting driving while intoxicated may not be deterred by the lack of a plastic card or the risk of an unlicensed driving charge. New York has at least 15,000 drivers who are still on the road with three or more drunk driving convictions in the last 20 years. More than 50,000 have been convicted three times or more over their lifetimes, and most still have their licenses.

Source: Albany Times-Union, "Stiffer penalties for chronic drunk, drugged drivers," Casey Seiler, Sep. 25, 2012

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As Published in Washingtonian Magazine | Washington's Best Legal Minds | 2013