The Toughest Crime Laws in a Generation.

 A summary of recent significant criminal justice laws passed by the New York State Assembly.


Sheldon Silver, Speaker of the Assembly

 Joseph Lentol, Chair, Assembly Codes Committee

 Daniel Feldman, Chair, Assembly Corrections Committee

 April 1997


Dear Friend,

Over the past three years, the New York State Legislature has enacted the toughest crime laws in a generation. Although the reinstatement of the Death Penalty attracted the most attention, many other historic laws have been passed--laws that eliminate parole for repeat violent felons, impose longer sentences for violent crime, and target predatory sex offenders with new sanctions.

This booklet summarizes the most significant criminal justice laws enacted over the past three years--a time that has brought unprecedented reforms to our penal system.

 Together with innovative enforcement by some of the best police agencies in the nation, these tough laws have reduced our crime rates. Last year we saw the largest decreases in recent history.

We’ve made great strides in the past three years in protecting New Yorkers from crime, but our work is far from over. The New York State Assembly is committed to ensuring that violent criminals receive severe punishments, and that all New Yorkers feel safer--whether they’re on the streets, at home, at school, or in the workplace.

We will continue to fight for greater safety for our families, communities and children.


Sheldon Silver
Speaker of the Assembly

Joseph Lentol
Chair, Assembly Codes Committee

Daniel Feldman
Chair, Assembly Corrections Committee



Table of Contents

Making the Punishment Fit the Crime:  Sentencing Reform

Giving Brutal Assailants Their Due

Combating Violent Sexual Predators

Protecting Children from Pornography and Sexual Exploitation

Tracking Offenders and Assisting Crime Victims

Domestic Violence

Ending the Scourge: Three Years of Drug Reforms

Putting an End to Fraud

Inmate and Corrections Reforms

Getting Tough on DWI and Highway Dangers

Procedural Reforms

Other Initiatives


Making the Punishment Fit the Crime:

"Over the last two years, the governor and the Legislature have made great changes in New York's criminal law . . . And their result--violent criminals serving longer sentences behind bars--is that our state is becoming a safer place to live, work and raise a family."
          --Glen Goord, Commissioner, NYS Dept. of Correctional Services
            Daily News, March 23, 1997

Violent crimes deserve severe punishments. That's why the Assembly supported and passed historic legislation substantially increasing sentences for every offender convicted of a violent crime in New York. These sentencing reform laws have given prosecutors new tools to put violent offenders behind bars and victims the knowledge that violent offenders can be incarcerated for a significant period of time.

l The Sentencing Reform Act of 1995
     Chapter 3, Laws of 1995, A.7991/S.5281 

This historic law:

First-time offenders

 Increases the minimum indeterminate sentence (the time actually served before parole can be applied for) from one-third to one-half of the maximum sentence.

Second-time offenders

 Before the Act, second offenders received a range of time, for instance, 12 1/2 to 25 years. Now, second offenses will be punished with a determinate sentence--with no possibility of parole. The maximum penalty for a repeat offender committing a Class B violent felony is now 25 years, and the offender must serve at least 85% of that sentence before release is considered.

 Third-time offenders--Persistent Violent Felony Offenders

 The Act doubles the minimum sentence for these intractable criminals--the maximum sentence for all third offenses must be life in prison. For example, prior to the enactment of this legislation, the minimum term which could be imposed on a third time offender committing a Class B violent felony was 10 years to life. The minimum sentence for such offenders now is 20 years to life.

 l Increasing Penalties for Displaying a Firearm
     Chapter 650, Laws of 1996, A.11162/S.7906

Whenever a criminal displays a gun during a crime, even if it is not fired, the incident becomes more threatening and volatile. That’s why we pushed for a new law increasing penalties for offenders who brandish a gun while committing a Class B violent felony.

This law allows five years to be added to the minimum indeterminate sentence for the crime of Criminal Use of a Firearm in the First Degree. This means that in such heinous crimes as rape and robbery, even threatening a victim with a gun will subject the felon to five years on top of the minimum sentence imposed for the crime itself.

 l Making Carjacking a Felony
     Chapter 308, Laws of 1995, A.5091/S.3021

In 1995 we passed a new law that recognizes the seriousness of carjacking. This measure increases the maximum penalty from seven to 15 years in prison for any carjacking--even one which does not involve a weapon--and gives carjacking violent felony status.


Giving Brutal Assailants Their Due

l Assault in the First Degree
     Chapter 646, Laws of 1996, A.8471/S.7932

Serious physical assaults--those that cause permanent or disfiguring injury--deserve a stiff punishment. These crimes have long been underpunished, carrying a lower sentence than crimes that may cause no injury to a victim.

That's why the Assembly pushed for a new law raising the penalty for first-degree assaults, increasing the maximum sentence from 15 to 25 years in prison.

 l Assault on a Police Officer, Peace Officer, Firefighter or EMS Technician
     Chapter 632, Laws of 1996, A.11275/S.7935

In order to make sure our police and other emergency personnel can do their jobs effectively, we stepped up the consequences of assaulting them.

This law creates a new category of Class C violent felony for seriously injuring one of these officials in the line of duty. This new crime is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

l Assaults Against Children
     Chapter 122, Laws of 1996, A.948-b/S.5492-a

It is a tragic fact that small children are often subjected to physical assaults by family members or caretakers.

Before August 1, 1996, assaults against young children involving physical injury could only be prosecuted as a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison.

This new measure makes assaulting a child under the age of seven a Class D felony with a maximum sentence of seven years behind bars, sending a strong message that child abusers will be severely punished.

l Gang Assault
     Chapter 647, Laws of 1996, A.8817/S.7931, effective November 1, 1996

There are few more threatening specters than a gang intent on beating and seriously injuring an innocent victim. Yet prior to 1996, the law did not recognize injuries caused by such gangs as a more serious crime than injuries in which only one person perpetrated an assault.

A new 1996 law enacts two new crimes to increase the penalties for assaults committed by gangs of three or more people where serious physical injury is caused. The new crimes of Gang Assault in the First and Second Degrees (Class B and Class C violent felonies) are now punishable by up to 25 years in prison.

Combating Violent Sexual Predators

There are few more heinous crimes than an abduction, assault, sexual assault or murder of a child. And studies have shown that child pedophiles tend to repeat their crimes and that their deviant behavior is difficult to correct. That’s why the Assembly established longer sentences and better tracking of those felons once they are released from prison.

l Megan's Law
     Chapter 192, Laws of 1995, A.1059-c/S.11-b

The tragic 1994 slaying of seven year-old Megan Kanka by a New Jersey neighbor with a history of child molestation dramatically illustrated the need to prevent such atrocities.

New Jersey established a registry of sexual offenders to provide information to community residents when those felons are released into their neighborhoods. New York’s version of Megan’s Law was passed in June of 1995 and took effect January 21, 1996.

Statewide Registry

Upon their release, sex offenders must register their names, addresses, and other personal information with the state Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) for at least ten years. The most dangerous and recalcitrant offenders are required to register for life.

Community Notification

Under Megan’s Law, members of a community can use a 900-telephone number to access information about whether a specific individual has a history of sex offenses.

Local officials will also have a directory of convicted sex offenders, including photographs, which will be available to the public.

As of April 1997, a federal court had issued an injunction to prevent the release to the public of information regarding offenders convicted before the law’s effective date. This action does not affect the validity of the registration requirements or the notification rules for offenders convicted after January 1996. The court order is currently being appealed.

l Course of Sexual Conduct
     Chapter 122, Laws of 1996, A.948-b/S.5492-a

"This bill addresses the inadequacies of current laws in protecting New York's children from the horrors of sexual abuse."

          --NYS Coalition Against Sexual Assault

This important new law makes it easier to prosecute and convict child sex offenders and increases the penalties for these heinous crimes.

A prior court decision (People v. Keindl) dismissed several cases because the victims were unable to remember specific dates of abuse. Young children are often able to testify about the details of a pattern of sexual abuse, but cannot recall the specific dates or time periods such crimes occurred. By creating a category of "continuing crimes" the new law overrules Keindl, acknowledging that many of these child sex crimes are repetitive, happening over periods of months or even years.

The new crimes are punishable by up to 25 years in prison. As of August 1, 1996, vicious child sexual predators will not go free because their victims are unable to meet the strict evidentiary requirements applied to adult witnesses.


Protecting Children from Pornography and Sexual Exploitation

"Child pornography is the photographic record of child abuse. It is a type of 'crime scene photo' that has no societal or personal value except to the deviant, perverted mind of the pedophile..."

          --Enough is Enough
            Anti-pornography group

l Cyberpornography
     Chapter 600, Laws of 1996, A.11154/S.210-e

Cyberporn demonstrates what happens when technology is one step ahead of our penal system. With the advent of online services and the accessibility of these services to children, sophisticated pedophiles have used this medium to lure children into unlawful sexual encounters.

As of November 1, 1996, these pedophiles are committing a Class D felony punishable by up to seven years in prison. The new law makes it a crime to solicit a minor for sex over the Internet. It also protects children by making it illegal to transmit pornographic materials to a minor using a computer. This activity alone can result in four years behind bars.

While the law protects online vendors and libraries from liability, it provides a strong deterrent and gives new teeth to law enforcement to catch these predators in the act.

l Possession of Child Pornography
     Chapter 11, Laws of 1996, A.8426/S.1638

This new law makes the knowing possession of even one piece of child pornography punishable by up to four years in prison. Prior to the enactment of this legislation, simple possession of this material was not criminalized.

Though possession does not mean the consumer has perpetrated child sex crimes, these individuals have been linked to child sexual exploitation. They also provide a market for the criminals who produce the materials. That’s why exacting harsh punishment on child pornography possession is an important way to crack down on this horrific crime.

l Testing Sex Offenders for HIV
     Chapter 76, Laws of 1995, A.7993/S.5319

The trauma suffered by sex crime victims is compounded by the fear that the attacker could carry HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

That's why New York’s new HIV testing law allows a victim of rape to obtain a court-ordered HIV test of the perpetrator. The tests will be performed by public health officials and disclosed confidentially to victims.

This law empowers victims by giving them information they may find useful in determining whether they should be concerned about their own HIV status.

l Foreign Object Sexual Assaults
     Chapter 181, Laws of 1996, A.8549/S.6825

Before the enactment of this statute, a case involving a sexual assault with a foreign object, in which no physical injury was caused, was considered a misdemeanor. We addressed this loophole by creating the new Class D felony of Aggravated Sexual Abuse in the Third Degree. This crime occurs when a victim is sexually assaulted with a foreign object and no physical injury can be proven.


Tracking Offenders and Assisting Crime Victims

l Elisa's Law: Opening the Records of Child Abuse Investigations to Law      Enforcement
     Chapter 12, Laws of 1996, A.8392-a, effective February 12, 1996


Records of certain child abuse investigations were previously considered confidential, even from law enforcement. This law, enacted to prevent tragedies like the death of 6-year-old Elisa Izquierdo in New York City, requires that detailed records of child abuse investigations be maintained, even when the allegations are determined to be unfounded, so that the records can be reviewed in future investigations to determine whether a pattern of abuse exists.

"Elisa's Law" also removes confidentiality in cases where the subject of the investigation is charged with a crime involving a child or has waived confidentiality, or when the child named in the report has died. This law also gives the state comptroller and county comptrollers access to abuse reports to aid them in reviewing the actions of child protection agencies.

l DNA Databank and Forensic Oversight Law
     Chapter 737, Laws of 1994, A.12252/S.8897

DNA Databank

Under this statute, offenders convicted of homicide, sex and assault crimes are required to provide a blood sample for a DNA identification index. The index is available to police and prosecutors to compare with DNA crime scene evidence. Much as the use of fingerprinting revolutionized police practices in the past, the use of DNA technology will become indispensable for tracking and apprehending repeat violent offenders in the future.

The law is effective for offenders convicted after January 1, 1996.

Forensic Oversight

The law also establishes the nation’s first comprehensive system for regulating the forensic work of public crime laboratories. A Forensic Sciences Commission will now regulate crime labs to assure the highest possible standards are in place.

The faulty evidence collection procedures exemplified in several recent highly publicized cases demonstrate that improper evidence collection and lab procedures can throw a wrench in investigative and prosecutorial work. The Commission should help prosecutors take full advantage of forensic work in putting violent criminals behind bars.

l Requiring Juvenile Fingerprinting
     Chapter 645, Laws of 1996, A.11166-b/S.7937, effective September 13, 1996

This legislation requires that all juveniles age 13 and older who are charged with a felony be fingerprinted when arrested. Previously, juveniles age 13-15 were only fingerprinted for the most serious felonies. Now, fingerprinting is required in all felony cases.

l MaceÔ Legalization
     Chapter 354, Laws of 1996, A.10801-a/S.1728-a

Self-defense sprays can be effective tools for protection against mugging and other assault crimes. New York was the last state to legalize the sale and possession of pocket-sized self-defense sprays. Now the use of MaceÔ and similar products is legal for New Yorkers 18 and over.

Because of the potential dangers of these sprays, consumers must show proof of age and sign a sworn statement that she or he has not been convicted of any felony or assault crime. Only authorized vendors may sell the products.

The law also takes steps to ensure the spray isn’t used against law enforcement officials in the line of duty by making such conduct a felony.

l Giving Victims a Voice at Sentencing
     Chapter 198, Laws of 1996, A.5863-a/S.6135-a

It is important for crime victims and their families to be given the opportunity to be involved in court proceedings. This involvement can provide victims with important information, and can help victims deal with the after effects of a crime.

Family members of a victim often request the opportunity to make a statement to the court at sentencing, but prior to this legislation this was only allowed when the victim was a child.

Now a family member or legal guardian may make a statement at sentencing on behalf of any victim when that victim is unable or unwilling to do so.

l Increasing Penalties for Surreptitious Recordings
     Chapter 391, Laws of 1996, A.9496/S.6589

This legislation makes it a felony to install or allow a hidden video recording device in any fitting room, restroom or shower or anywhere in a hotel room. The new law responds to two recent incidents in which bar owners secretly recorded female patrons as they used the restroom.


Domestic Violence

For years, domestic violence victims have complained that the criminal justice system has not treated domestic violence as the serious crime it is and that police, prosecutors and judges have too often been unable or unwilling to mete out stiff punishments to domestic abusers. Over the past decade, the Assembly has taken the lead in changing the system by enacting historic legislation that goes a long way toward giving victims of domestic violence the protection they need and offenders the punishment they deserve.

One roadblock to cracking down on domestic violence has been the inability of police and the courts to enforce orders of protection--restraining orders meant to keep abusers away from their victims. An important part of the Assembly's domestic violence program has focused on strengthening and clarifying these injunctions to make sure victims are truly protected.

l 1994 Family Protection and Domestic Violence Intervention Act
     Chapter 222, A.11992/S.8642 and Chapter 224, A.12092-a/S.5881-d

In 1994 we passed what advocates, police and prosecutors recognize as one of the most significant improvements in domestic violence laws ever enacted in New York. The new law represents years of effort by the Assembly to develop a comprehensive response to the problem of family violence.

Mandatory Arrest

Under the Act, police must make an arrest when they are called to the scene of a violent domestic dispute where:

Concurrent Jurisdiction--Expanded Judicial Options

The Act also repeals prior rules that forced victims of domestic violence to choose either family court or criminal court to pursue their cases. Under those rules, once a victim chose one forum, they were permanently barred from the other. Now victims can proceed in either court or both.

The law also gives the Family Court new enforcement options for violations of orders of protection, including referring the case to a district attorney or directly to criminal court.

Tougher Enforcement

The Act also strengthens domestic violence laws by:

1995 Achievements

In 1995 we passed additional legislation to strengthen and clarify the 1994 omnibus bill including:

1996 Achievements

"Judges often mistakenly assume that the battering on one parent by the other is not detrimental to the child and therefore irrelevant, even though data indicate that over 50% of battering spouses will abuse their children as well. . . . this legislation goes a long was toward addressing the serious issue of domestic violence in custody and visitation cases."


l No Guns for Abusers
    Chapter 644, Laws of 1996, A.10640-a/S.7631-a, effective November 1, 1996

Authorizes judges to revoke or suspend an abuser's gun license and to order the surrender of guns possessed by a perpetrator of domestic violence when there is reason to believe the victim is in danger. The judge must revoke the license when the abuser commits certain serious acts.

Abusers should not be allowed easy access to deadly weapons. This law makes it more difficult for abusers to use guns against their victims.

 l Further Strengthening Orders of Protection
     Chapter 353, Laws of 1996, A.11276/S.7930

l New Protections for Children
Chapter 85, Laws of 1996, A.2446-c/S.7403-b

Violence in the home can be devastating to young children, even if they are not the direct targets of physical abuse. Some New York courts have recognized domestic violence as a factor in child custody and visitation determinations, but others have questioned its validity as a criterion when a child was not physically abused by the parent.

This law requires the courts to consider the impact of violence in the home on children, whether the physical abuse was directed at the child or another member of the household. The new law will be applicable even in cases where the child did not personally witness the abuse.

l Creating a Fatality Review Board
     A.167-a (1996)

This legislation, which creates a Fatality Review Board to examine domestic violence deaths, passed the Assembly with overwhelming support. The Board would study and investigate specific cases and make recommendations on how the criminal justice system, the courts and other government agencies could be improved to better protect persons at risk for domestic violence.

Subsequent to the Assembly's passage of this legislation, the Governor, by executive order, created a temporary commission to study domestic violence fatalities.


Ending the Scourge: Three Years of Drug Reforms

The Assembly has led the fight to end drug use and sales in our schools and neighborhoods. Tough new laws give police the tools they need to prosecute dealers and protect our children from the cruel cycle of drug dependency.

l Keeping School Grounds Drug Free
     Chapter 292 Laws of 1994, A.6903-b/S.6379-b

This legislation gives police the ability to effectively prosecute dealers who sell drugs on or near school grounds.

Previously, only those caught selling to someone under the age of 19 could be convicted under New York's tough drug–free schools law. Undercover police operations were rendered useless since most undercover agents are not under 19. Now anyone caught selling drugs on or near school grounds is subject to the full penalties of the law.

l Putting Drug Criminals Behind Bars
     Chapter 75, Laws of 1995, A.7983/S.4381-a

A 1993 court decision regarding drug laws forced prosecutors to prove that a defendant knew the actual weight of the drugs they possessed (People v. Ryan). This made it very difficult to convict drug criminals of certain drug possession offenses unless they confessed to the crime.

Fortunately, a 1995 measure frees prosecutors from this requirement — closing the loophole and helping them put drug dealers behind bars.


Putting an End to Fraud

l Real Penalties for Welfare Fraud
     Chapter 81, sections 168-73, Laws of 1995, A.7984-a/S.5280-a

The Assembly is at the forefront of welfare reforms that ensure assistance goes only to those who truly need it. Our tough new laws establish:

l Ending Prescription/Medicaid Fraud and Medical Kickbacks
     Chapter 81, sections 94, 85, 85-a, Laws of 1995, A.7984-a/S.5280-a

District attorneys and police have seen a growth of cases involving doctors or physicians' assistants who sign prescriptions for unneeded medication. The patient then fills the prescription and sells the drug on the street.

In other cases, the patients receive a legitimate prescription but sell it to a drug dealer instead of filling it themselves. These schemes put potentially dangerous medications on the street and cheat taxpayers if the patient receives Medicaid reimbursement for the prescription.

The Assembly responded by making it a crime to commit prescription and Medicaid fraud. Those convicted under the new law may serve up to 15 years in prison, depending on the severity of the fraud.

The Assembly also got tough on medical professionals who accept kickbacks in exchange for patient referrals--increasing the penalty from a standard misdemeanor to a felony if the kickback exceeds $7,500.

l Disconnecting Cell Phone Fraud
     Chapter 357, Laws of 1996, A.720-a/S.587-a, effective November 1, 1996

The burgeoning telecommunications field creates new opportunities for people bent on defrauding and victimizing consumers.

This law increases the penalties for telecommunications theft and fraud, and ensures prosecution for those who steal access codes from cell phone users.


Inmate and Corrections Reforms

"We believe this legislation [waste assault bill] will serve as a deterrent for inmates who regularly commit these vicious acts. A correction officer's job is hard enough without the added stress of these deplorable incidents. This legislation is a sign that these acts will not be tolerated."

          --Council 82 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal              Employees

Inmates under correctional supervision need close monitoring and severe sanctions for misbehavior. Those who pose a significant threat to the community should not be permitted to leave prison on work release, furlough or other programs. Our prisons must be made safe for those who must work in them.

These principles have been the driving force behind tough new laws which have made our prisons safer, more closely monitored inmates on probation, and eliminated work and temporary release programs for violent felons.

l Keeping Violent Felons from Work Release
     Chapter 83, Laws of 1995, A.8063/S.5336

Over the last three years, the Assembly has led the fight to prevent violent criminals from threatening the public. Because inmates on work release programs have absconded and committed new crimes after an escape, the Assembly passed legislation to authorize the Department of Correctional Services to ban work release for any inmate convicted of committing a violent felony. This will ensure that dangerous criminals are not released prior to the completion of their minimum sentences and offer enhanced protection to the public.

l Ending Waste Assaults
     Chapter 92, Laws of 1996, A.8389-c/S.5951-b, effective on June 10, 1996

In a number of cases, inmates have engaged in the vile practice of throwing bodily waste at corrections officers, increasing a guard’s risk of contracting infectious diseases and causing emotional trauma to corrections employees and their families. In response, the Assembly spearheaded legislation that makes waste assault a felony — adding time to sentences and stripping work release privileges.

l Tough Penalties for Correctional Employee/Inmate Sex
     Chapter 266, Laws of 1996, A.8592-a/S.5912-a, effective on August 1, 1996

This law prohibits sexual relations between inmates and corrections officers — including mental health professionals. These incidents are inherently dysfunctional and disruptive to the atmosphere in a correctional facility.

The law is designed to protect both inmates and corrections employees by establishing stringent penalties for such behavior.

l Opening the Criminal Record of Psychiatric PatientS
     Chapter 181, Laws of 1995, A.8365/S.5441-a

Mental health professionals at state psychiatric hospitals now have access to the criminal records of their patients under this new law.

Knowing a patient’s criminal history can help mental health professionals make informed decisions about appropriate care, treatment and security requirements. This information also helps ensure that psychiatric patients who pose a danger to themselves or others are not released prematurely.

l Electronic Monitoring of Probationers
     Chapter 653, Laws of 1996, A.10473-a /S.7936, effective September 18, 1996

"The New York City Probation Department has effectively utilized electronic monitoring since the inception of the Short Term Alternative to Remand (START) program in February 1993 . . . Over 700 total cases have been electronically monitored at an average savings of 207 jail days."

          --NYC Mayor's Office

Electronic monitoring provides probation officers with an effective tool to track offenders on probation who may commit further crimes if left unchecked. Public safety will be improved and probationers will be deterred from committing new crimes under this legislation.


Getting Tough on DWI and Highway Dangers

The Assembly has led the fight against drunk driving and other highway crimes by instituting a series of hardhitting laws aimed at saving the lives of New York motorists.

l Zero Tolerance Saves Young Lives
Chapter 196, Laws of 1996, A.2364-d/S.5960-a, effective November 1, 1996

Drivers under 21 are involved in 17% of all fatal drunk driving accidents, though they make up only 9% of the driving population. The Zero Tolerance law institutes stiff penalties for underage drivers who have consumed even a very small amount of alcohol.

This legislation suspends the licenses of young drivers with a blood alcohol content of .02% or more--roughly one beer, glass of wine or shot of hard liquor. The tragedy of young drivers killed and maimed due to drunk driving has exacted a terrible toll on the lives of thousands of Americans. Studies show Zero Tolerance laws deter young people from the temptation of drinking and driving.


l Prompt Suspension of a Drunk Driver's License
     Chapter 312, Laws of 1994, A.1906-b/S.5679-a

New York’s Vehicle and Traffic Law mandates a minimum six-month revocation of a driver’s license the first time a person is convicted of DWI--and a minimum one year revocation for second and subsequent convictions in a 10-year period.

The Prompt Suspension Law requires courts, at arraignment, to suspend the driver’s license of anyone arrested for DWI having a blood alcohol concentration of .10% or more at the time of arrest. Prior to this law, despite New York’s tough DWI laws, drunk drivers still had the opportunity to continue driving--and drinking--during the period between arrest and conviction.

Defendants participating in an alcohol or drug rehabilitation program can obtain a conditional license 30 days after that initial suspension. "Extreme hardship" cases may also be entitled to receive a court ordered license before the time they are convicted and sentenced.

This measure was a top priority for advocacy groups concerned about the problems of drinking and driving, including Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

l DWAI Becomes a Misdemeanor
     Chapter 75, Laws of 1994, A.1257-A/S.469-A

This law elevates a conviction for driving while ability impaired by alcohol (DWAI) from a traffic infraction to a misdemeanor in those cases where the DWAI operator has two or more prior alcohol or drug related driving convictions within ten years.

Before the enactment of this new law, a person could be repeatedly convicted of DWAI and still be guilty of only a traffic infraction. This measure doubles the maximum imprisonment from 90 to 180 days, and imposes a six-month license revocation for the new DWAI misdemeanor offense.

l Ignition Interlock Program
     Chapter 168, Laws of 1995, A.6806/S.4048

Finding effective ways to keep drunk drivers off the road is essential in curbing DWI cases. The Ignition Interlock Program of 1988 is a prime example of this strategy. An "ignition interlock" device requires a driver to blow into an alcohol sensor before starting their automobile. If the sensor detects alcohol, the car will not start.

The law included seven counties in a pilot project to test the effectiveness of ignition interlock devices in cars driven by persons with alcohol-related vehicle convictions.

Unfortunately, the Department of Health only recently approved the ignition interlock devices, so their effectiveness has not yet been widely tested. This legislation extended the expiration date of the program to July 1, 1997, providing more time to test the program.

The new law also expands the scope of the program by authorizing courts in jurisdictions outside the pilot counties to require the installation as a condition of probation--increasing the scope of this potentially valuable law enforcement tool.

l DWI Penalties: Repeat Offenders
     Chapter 652, Laws of 1996, A.9631-b/S.6612-a, effective November 1, 1996

This new statute toughens the sentencing on DWI convictions to a Class D felony punishable by up to 7 years in prison if the defendant has been convicted of DWI, Vehicular Assault (1st or 2nd Degree) or Vehicular Manslaughter (1st or 2nd Degree) on two previous occasions within the preceding 10 years.

Previously, a third DWI conviction within a ten year period would only be considered a Class E felony.

l Intoxicated School Bus Drivers
     Chapter 26, Laws of 1996, A.6048-b/S.380, effective November 1, 1996

Parents have enough worries--their children’s safety on the school bus should not be among them. This 1996 law was designed to reduce incidents of drunk and drug-impaired driving by New York school bus drivers.

Penalties have been increased from a traffic infraction to a misdemeanor for those operating a school bus while their ability is impaired by alcohol.

Under this new law, the penalty for driving a school bus while legally drunk or drug impaired has been increased from a misdemeanor to a Class E felony.

l Vehicular Assault/Manslaughter: Out-of-State Convictions
     Chapter 528, Laws of 1996, A.8983/S.6630, effective November 1, 1996

When sentencing a defendant in Vehicular Assault and Manslaughter cases, judges used to consider records of out-of-state DWI/DWAI convictions less seriously than in-state violations. This law closes this loophole by making sure all violations carry equal weight regardless of where the offense took place.

l  Highway Work Zone Safety
     Chapter 446, Laws of 1995, A.5045-a\4051-a

In 1992, the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles reported 1,253 motor vehicle accidents in highway work areas--causing six deaths and 1,192 injuries among highway workers.

This law doubles the fines imposed for exceeding the speed limit posted in areas of highway construction or repair. The new fines are: 10 mph or less above speed limit: $60-$100; 11-30 mph: $120-$200; 31 or more mph: $240-$400.

l  Stopping Auto-Stripping and "Chop Shops"
     Chapter 494, S.4216-b/A. Reprint #30017, effective November 1, 1996

". . . police estimate more than 55% of stolen vehicles are dismantled by chop shops. Such outfits are not deterred by the threat of current sanctions . . . Stiffer sanctions will make thieves think twice before stealing cars and stripping them for parts."

          --NYS Automobile Assn.

Auto-stripping is typically practiced in stolen car "chop-shops" where vehicles are stripped for parts and then resold. Increasing criminal penalties for these activities should help police in combating auto-theft. Under this law, prison terms increase with the number and value of cars involved.


Procedural Reforms

Defendants accused of crimes are prosecuted under the rules specified in the criminal procedure law. While many of these rules are necessary for the justice system to function, some rules have impeded effective criminal prosecutions with unjustified loopholes. The Assembly has enacted new laws to change the criminal procedure law and provide for more effective criminal prosecution.

l Speedy Trial
    Chapter 631, Laws of 1996, A.11151-a/S.7933

This law closes a loophole in the Speedy Trial statute that allowed defendants to profit from not showing up in court. Ironically, the provision stipulated that a prosecutor was required to use "due diligence" in finding no-show defendants. Where a defendant did not appear in court as required and the prosecution could not show they had exercised due diligence to find the defendant, the case against the defendant would be dismissed. This allowed criminals to profit from their own wrongdoing.

Under this new law, the prosecution will no longer be required to show due diligence when a defendant does not appear in court as scheduled. The cases against these defendants will be continued and defendants may then be prosecuted both for their original crimes and for their failure to appear in court as required.

l Alternate Jurors & Verdict Sheets
    Chapter 630, Laws of 1996, A.11155-a/S.7929

Alternate Jurors

Dismissing late or missing jurors can pose tremendous dilemmas for judges, because in the past this has resulted in voided convictions. This new law provides that judges can dismiss jurors who don’t appear within two hours of their scheduled time, therefore avoiding conviction reversals and making court proceedings more efficient.

Verdict Sheets

The law also allows the courts to include certain written information on verdict sheets to assist jurors. Prior to this measure, convictions had been overturned because of such notations.


Other Initiatives

l Trademark Counterfeiting
    Chapter 535, Laws of 1995, A.6325-b/S.3620-b

New York is headquarters for many top manufacturers of consumer goods. Unfortunately, some unscrupulous individuals benefit from upscale firms’ reputations by placing counterfeit names on lesser-quality products and then selling them deceptively to the public.

This new statute strengthens law enforcement’s ability to prosecute counterfeiters by:

Trademark counterfeiting in the first degree (retail value of $100,000 or more) is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Second degree counterfeiting (up to $1,000) can result in a sentence of up to four years.

l The Organized Crime Corruption Act
     Chapter 401, Laws of 1995, A.1774/S.2671

This new law facilitates the prosecution of sophisticated money-laundering operations. In recent years, these criminals have become increasingly adept at concealing the proceeds of their illegal conduct.

The law adds "money laundering" to the list of offenses that can lead to an enterprise corruption prosecution, bringing the full force of organized crime statutes to bear against these criminals.

l Criminal Alien Deportation
     Chapter 83, Laws of 1995, A.8063/S.5336

New York's prisons house hundreds of illegal aliens, some of whom have already had deportation orders filed against them. New York’s taxpayers have long been subsidizing these foreign offenders.

This law allows aliens with final deportation orders to be released for immediate deportation to their home countries, saving New York millions of dollars over the next several years.

l Reimbursement for Extradition Expenses
    Chapter 193, Laws of 1995, A.296-a/S.205-a

The cost of returning an accused defendant or escaped prisoner arrested out-of-state is sometimes substantial. This law authorizes a county, the state Department of Correctional Services and state Division of Parole to collect the expenses associated with extradition from the person who is extradited.

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