According to a press release issued by state senator Ken LaValle’s spokesman Drew Biondo, the New York State Senate has passed a bill co-sponsored by LaValle that would increase penalties for leaving the scene of a hit-and-run accident.
The bill was introduced in the wake of the 2011 tragic hit and run death of Erika Hughes, a 24-year-old Mastic resident and mother of a 15-month-old girl. The driver who hit and killed Hughes received a sentence of one and a third to four years in prison.
Among other provisions, this legislation changes a fatal hit and run from a Class D Felony to a Class C Felony and increases prison time to a maximum of 15 years in state prison. Under this bill, the punishment for other types of hit and run offenses will also be upgraded.
Under the current law, a first-time offender who wrongfully flees the scene of an accident where a personal injury has occurred can only be charged with a Class A Misdemeanor which carries a maximum penalty of only up to one year in jail. However, if the driver remains at the scene and is found to be intoxicated or impaired by drugs, he can be immediately charged with a Class E felony carrying a maximum penalty of four years.
“I have heard and read about too many instances in which individuals have been killed by hit-and-run drivers and it is later determined that the driver was intoxicated,” Senator LaValle said. “This bill, rightfully, closes loopholes in the current law.”