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Monday, May 19, 2014

Sosnowski bill cracking down on drunk drivers passes the Senate

Now the House needs to pass Rep. Donna Walsh's companion bill

angry animated GIFSTATE HOUSE – The Senate approved legislation (2014-S 2646) today that would increase the penalties for driving so as to endanger and driving under the influence in scenarios where a victim dies or becomes injured as a result of the offenses. 

Sponsored by Sen. V. Susan Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown, New Shoreham), the bill also creates a new criminal offense: driving under the influence, resulting in personal injury.

“The sad truth is that many offenders, especially those who have been caught driving under the influence, don’t learn until they cause permanent injury to someone,” Senator Sosnowski said. “It’s time Rhode Island created a tough penalty that makes sense. My hope is that someone facing 20 years of prison instead of 10 might think a little harder about what they’re doing when they get behind the wheel. One driving fatality is one too many.”

The Senate passed the new language in a 30 to 0 vote, and the bill will now be sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.

If enacted, the maximum prison sentence for driving so as to endanger, resulting in death, would increase from 10 to 20 years. Maximum imprisonment for the same offense resulting in personal injury would double from five to 10 years. The legislation further addresses driving under the influence, resulting in death, with a change in maximum prison sentence from 15 to 30 years and a maximum fine of $20,000. The current maximum fine is $10,000.

Repercussions for driving under the influence and causing serious bodily harm would double under the new language; those convicted could serve up to 20 years in prison and pay no more than a $10,000 fine. That individual would also have his or her license revoked for three to five years, as opposed to two years as stated in the current statute. The last change is the addition of the personal injury offense under “driving under the influence,” which would carry a penalty of no more than three years imprisonment and a license suspension for no more than one year.

Senate Majority Whip Maryellen Goodwin (D-Dist. 1, Providence) and Senators Erin P. Lynch (D-Dist. 31, Warwick), Leonidas P. Raptakis (D-Dist. 33, Coventry, East Greenwich, West Greenwich) and Stephen R. Archambault (D-Dist. 22, Smithfield, North Providence, Johnston) cosponsor the bill. Rep. Donna M. Walsh (D-Dist. 36, Charlestown, New Shoreham, South Kingstown, Westerly) sponsors a companion bill (2014-H 7147) in the House.