N.Y. Officials Propose New Legislation to Toughen Laws for Underage Drinkers who Drive

March 11, 2005

In a continued effort to combat underage drinking in New York State, Gov. George Pataki and Westchester County District Attorney Jeanine Pirro have proposed new legislation to increase penalties for offenses committed by drivers under the age of 21.

Under the proposed legislation announced this week, an underage driver convicted of using or permitting another driver to use a forged, fictitious or illegally obtained license will face mandatory suspension of his/her license for one year or until the age of 21, whichever is longer. This legislation will also increase the license revocation period for any person under the age of 21 convicted of an alcohol-related driving offense.

“Underage drinking is a serious problem that too often results in tragic consequences,” Gov. Pataki said. “Apart from being illegal, underage drinking poses a high risk not only to young people, but to those around them. We need to make sure we do everything possible to prevent underage drinking and stop our young people from getting behind the wheel of a car if they are drunk. This is common sense legislation which will help make sure that our young people are safe and healthy and do not put others at risk.”

Pirro said, “Our children are more likely to die as the result of underage drinking than as the result of all other illegal drugs combined. We must impress upon them the dire consequences of underage drinking. Losing their drivers licenses will get their attention.”

DMV Commissioner Raymond P. Martinez added, “New York has one of the most rigorous and secure licensing systems in the country. This legislation will not only help to further ensure the integrity of New York State licenses and non-driver IDs by deterring individuals from committing fraudulent acts, but the stiffer penalties for impaired drivers under 21 will also help to improve highway safety in New York. Governor Pataki and District Attorney Pirro are proposing smart legislation that will also help protect our young people.”

Alcohol is the leading cause of death for those under 21 years old. Last year, more than 4,000 young adults between the ages of 16 and 20 were arrested for driving while under the influence of alcohol. Reportedly, underage drinkers commonly use fraudulent or chalked licenses to purchase alcohol.

Recently, the Westchester District Attorney’s Office convicted two New York City college students for producing fake licenses and selling them to Scarsdale teens. The arrests were the result of an investigation into a party in which several teens videotaped intoxicated girls engaging in sexual activity.

In addition, the District Attorney’s Office shut down a fraudulent drivers license mill that operated in Westchester. The mill was responsible for creating over 400 fraudulent New York State Drivers License. The bogus licenses were then sold to students who used them for the purpose of buying alcohol. A multi-agency task force initiated by the Governor investigating the trafficking of phony licenses resulted in the arrest and conviction of 50 identification traffickers and the seizure of hundreds of forged documents.

Underage drinkers pose a significant risk not only to themselves, but to society at large. Nearly 2,500 people die in traffic accidents that involve underage drinking yearly. Nationwide alcohol is reportedly a factor in about 1,600 homicides and another 300 suicides among minors. Alcohol is reportedly the drug of choice for date rapes. The largest percentage of victims of sexual assault nationwide are under 18 years old.

This proposed legislation strengthens the Governor’s campaign to protect children from the tragic consequences of underage drinking. The Governor has signed laws to help address this problem, including graduated licenses and keg registration laws.

He has also offered other proposals that would target deadly drivers, such as eliminating the requirement of proving criminal negligence in cases where a driver kills or seriously injures another, increasing the criminal penalties for those convicted of killing or seriously injuring another using a vehicle, increasing the penalties for leaving the scene of a deadly accident, strengthening the laws against unlicensed driving, and revoking the licenses of drivers who kill or seriously injure another by operating a vehicle in violation of the Vehicle and Traffic Law.

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