The New York State Senate has passed legislation that would raise penalties for hit-and-run drivers who leave the scene accident that results in an injury or death, Sen. Jack Martins (R-7th Senate District) announced. Martins, whose district includes Franklin Square and Elmont, is a sponsor of the legislation.
The legislation, which awaits approval by the State Assembly, would make penalties for hit-and-run drivers identical to those faced by drunken drivers who cause an injury or death and remain at the scene of the accident. Under current law, drivers who leave the scene of an accident often face less harsh penalties when caught, than drivers who remain at the scene. Hit-and-run drivers who cause serious injury currently face a Class E felony charge, which carries a penalty of up to four years in prison; drivers who stay at the scene of similar accidents currently face a Class D felony charge, which carries with it up to seven years in prison.
Under the new bill, drivers who leave the scene of a fatal accident would face a Class C felony charge, punishable by up to 15 years in prison; drivers who leave the scene of an accident that involves a serious injury would face a Class D felony charge; and drivers who leave the scene of an accident that involved property damage would face a Class E felony charge, with repeat offenders facing a Class D felony charge.
In July 2011, a 24-year-old Mastic woman was struck by a hit-and-run driver, who was not found and arrested until April 2012. The driver subsequently pled guilty and received a sentence between 16 months and four years. Martins has pointed to that accident and sentence as a prime example of why he feels the law must change.
“Leaving someone injured or dying on the side of the road after hitting them with a car is totally heartless and unimaginably cruel,” Martins said. “Allowing them to face a more lenient penalty for fleeing the scene of a crash, which the current law does, is absolutely ludicrous. This legislation would ensure that hit and drivers face stronger penalties, not weaker ones, for their callous actions.”