Does This NY Representative’s DUI Laws Go Too Far?

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New York is consistently ranked as one of the worst states for DUI offenders, and now one New York U.S. representative wants the state to lead the charge on tougher DUI laws nationwide.

Long Island Democratic Representative Kathleen Rice announced this July that she would introduce national legislation that would require all U.S. automakers to equip new car models with ignition interlock devices. Such technology requires drivers to take a breathalyzer in order to start their car, and are already widely used across the country for DUI offenders.

Before her election to the House of Representatives, Representative Rice was the District Attorney of Nassau County, NY, and was known nationwide for her tough-on-crime approach to drunk driving. Known as the state’s “toughest DWI prosecutor” and recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Rice was responsible for her county’s first DWI murder convictions.

She also helped toughen New York State’s drunk driving laws, which were recently ranked as the top-eight harshest state laws against DUI offenses. According to a study by a Florida law firm, “no [New York] drunk driver in their right mind should choose to attempt to represent him or herself through the criminal process. Get an experienced criminal defense attorney or face extremely harsh penalties.”

In general, the U.S. already has extremely harsh drunk driving laws, and even states known for generally weaker laws are toughening up penalties. Until recently, Colorado was one of a handful of states without a felony DUI standard for repeat offenders. But that changed this summer, when Colorado signed new felony DUI penalties into law. Colorado’s new law is part of a nationwide trend to ramp up penalties for drunk drivers.

Rice says requiring ignition locks on all new cars would stop 85% of fatal drunk driving crashes.

“Strict enforcement is important, holding drunk drivers accountable is important, but we can and must do more to stop drunk drivers from ever hitting the road in the first place,” Rep. Rice said.

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