New York Now Has a Longer Memory For Repeat DWI Crimes

The state of New York has shown once again just how little tolerance it has for drunk driving.

Last week Governor Andrew Cuomo signed Vince’s law, which takes two strong steps to target repeat DWI offenders.new-york-memory

The first step, an obvious one, is to increase punishments for repeat DWI offenders. The maximum prison sentence is seven years and a fine of up to $10,000 for three DWI offenses.

The other step is to change the look-back period on DWI offenses. A look-back, or “washout” period, is the amount of time the state can look back when counting previous DWI convictions. Previously New York’s was 10 years. Now it is fifteen. That is a long time — convicted drunk drivers will have to stay clean over almost four Olympics or presidential elections before their offense will no longer haunt their driving record.

gavelChanging look-back periods is a powerful tool, and a balance must be sought between the law’s effectiveness and a driver’s rights. A lot of states’ look-back periods were extended after Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA 21) Restoration Act was passed in 1998. That law denied road funds to states without a minimum look-back period of 5 years.

Still, there is a difference of opinion on how far the government can look back to determine if a drunk driving offense is a repeat or not:

LOOKBACK PERIODS

  • Colorado, Alabama: 5 years
  • Washington State: 7 Years
  • California, Wisconsin, Virginia: 10 Years
  • New York: 15 Years
  • Massachusetts – Lifetime

While not the harshest look-back period, New York is second only to Massachusett’s extreme sanction. We will be keeping an eye on New York’s DWI statistics to learn if these measures will, as Governor Cuomo states, “keep these reckless individuals out of the driver’s seat.”