ALBANY, N.Y. -- The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles is making a driver's ticket history so that the prosecutors can make more informed judgments when considering a plea for a current driving charge.
The information will be available for tickets issued during the past 10 years when the original charge was a point bearing violation, a drug or alcohol related offense, or was for aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle. Currently, only data on convictions is available to prosecutors.
"As we prosecutors make decisions about how to plea
bargain these cases we are going to be tougher on these people who are in our
court room again, again and again," said Saratoga County D.A. James Murphy.
Many times when a motorist goes to court, the original ticket is pled down to a lesser charge. Often this is done because the prosecutor or the court is not aware that the driver has a pattern of dangerous driving behaviors. As an example, it is common practice for courts and prosecutors to allow motorists charged with speeding offenses to plead those charges down to lesser offenses such as parking violations.
The four families affected by the tragic crash on the Northway back in December 2012 that killed Chris Stewart and Deanna Rivers have been pushing for this change and are glad to see New York State moving forward with the initiative.
"We would like to think it would have had some type of effect on Drue's ability on driving," said Michael Stewart, father of Chris Stewart.
Dennis Drue was sentenced 5 to 15 years for killing Chris and Deanna last December.
Murphy said the new initiative would not have had a big impact on Drue's sentencing, but his reckless driving could have been cut short if prosecutors knew how extensive his driving history really was.
"So those DA's who had prosecuted him before had three or four or five priors when in reality he had 22 priors. I mean that's stunning to me," said Murphy.
Murphy also said Drue could possibly have more but his office only knows of 22 of Drue's driving infractions because a State Trooper looked into the matter.
The new initiative will allow prosecutors and courts to now have better knowledge of a person's driving history.
"We see this as a big improvement. Hopefully it will save lives," said Stewart.
Murphy said this law will not affect law abiding citizens but repeat offenders.
Access to this information is restricted to District Attorneys, paralegals and investigators working under the supervision and control of the DA's and other prosecutors authorized by a DA's office. The information will be displayed only if the disposition of the original ticket resulted in a guilty conviction of a lesser charge, was covered by another ticket or is still pending.
Tickets where the charge was dismissed or where youthful offender status was granted are not included.
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