New Law Targets Drivers With Multiple DWI Offenses

The swift hand of justice will now show even less mercy for drunk drivers who reoffend.

Earlier this month, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation creating Vince’s Law, an amendment to current law that extends the timeframe in which multiple DWIs can be considered to invoke a felony.

The previous law included offenses committed over a 10-year period. Vince’s Law extends this to a 15-year period, but only impacts drivers who commit three or more DWIs within that window.

“Motorists who repeatedly drive drunk are a danger to themselves and everyone else on the road,” Cuomo said. “Vince’s Law will keep these reckless individuals out of the driver’s seat and help prevent future tragedies from occurring.”

Named after Vincent Russo, an Onondaga County man who died in 2011 after being struck head-on by a driver with five prior DWI offenses, the law raises the penalty levels for offenders who commit three or more DWI-related offenses within 15 years, with a maximum determinate prison sentence of up to 7 years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Previously, such repeat offenses might not have been prosecuted as a felony at all.

“I support (the new law),” said Joseph Gerace, Chautauqua County sheriff. “Many of the tragedies that I’ve seen personally have been at the hands of repeat offender drunk drivers that continued to drive a car after numerous convictions.”

Captain Robert F. Samuelson, division commander of the Jamestown Police Department, echoed Gerace’s support.

“From a law enforcement perspective, it’s a great thing,” he said. “DWIs are on the forefront of enforcement … and this law will definitely be a tool that the district attorney can use.”