Senate passes Alix’s Law to close hit-and-run loophole

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03/25/2015 5:56 PM |

The state Senate passed new legislation Wednesday that aims to hold hit-and-run drivers more accountable, according to state Senator Ken LaValle’s office.

If passed by the Assembly and signed into law, Alix’s Law, named in memory of Alix Rice, who was killed at age 18 in Erie County by a drunk driver as she rode home on her skateboard, would close a loophole that critics say encourages drivers who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol to flee an accident scene and sober up.

Current law requires drivers to report an accident only when they know an accident resulted in an injury or property damage. The new legislation would require all drivers  to stop and investigate after any crash to check for damage or injuries.

Another provision of the law would make it so anyone found to be driving drunk is presumed to be fully aware of injuries and property damage.

“There have been instances in my Senate district, and across the state, where drivers fled accidents where people were injured only to have the driver escape prosecution via a legal loophole,” Mr. LaValle said. “This legislation, dubbed ‘Alix’s Law,’ will close the loophole and hold these drivers responsible for their actions.”

In January, Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota and the families of hit-and-run victims called on state lawmakers to increase penalties for those convicted of fleeing the scene of fatal accidents.

There have been 58 serious or fatal hit-and-run incidents in Suffolk County in the last three years, Mr. Spota said, and tougher penalties are needed to deter future accidents — and keep offenders off the road longer.

Specifically, Mr. Spota has asked for an increase in the maximum sentence for fatal hit-and-run crimes from seven years to 15 years in prison and for aggravated vehicular homicides, which are currently considered nonviolent felonies, be upgraded to violent felony charges.

Mr. LaValle’s office confirmed those changes aren’t included in the bill that passed Wednesday.

Alix’s Law was sent to the state Assembly and is expected to be reviewed by the house’s Committee on Transportation.

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