Westchester County DWI–Forfeiture Law In Effect In 2010

The Westchester County Board of Legislators has passed legislation requiring the forfeiture of cars for motorists convicted of any Westchester County drunk driving offense beginning on December 15, 2010. The new law also applies to those convicted of unlawful speed contests or drag races in Westchester County. The four county parkways which the new law would apply to are the Saw Mill River Parkway, Bronx River Parkway, Cross County Parkway, and the Hutchinson River Parkway. Thus, drivers convicted of Westchester County DWI or DWAI on major roadways such as 684, the Taconic Parkway or I-287 would not have their vehicles confiscated as these roadways are operated by New York State, not Westchester County. Interestingly, statistically speaking, there any many more speed contests and drag races on 684 than on the four county run parkways.

Westchester County police have made 498 DWI arrests this year, fast approaching the 588 arrests made in 2008. Opponents of the bill were in favor of the installation of an ignition interlock device, which the DWI convicted motorists would be required to blow into before starting his or her vehicle. If the device detects alcohol, the driver is not able to start the car. Clearly, there is a big difference between a driver who is convicted of a Westchester County DWI for the first time, and who has not injured anyone or been involved in a property damage accident, as opposed to a recidivist who has injured others or damaged property. Without doubt, the Westchester lawmakers were influenced by the tragic Schuler accident this past July, in which 8 people lost their lives when Diane Schuler drove her car the wrong way on the Taconic Parkway, killing herself, her daughter, three nieces, and three men in the car she struck. Ironically, the new law would not have applied in the Schuler accident as it occurred on a state operated road.

The forfeiture law will have a “hardship relief” provision, in which the defendant can avoid the forfeiture penalty if he or she can prove that confiscation would create substantial burdens on the defendant’s ability to travel to and from work, school, or medical treatment. This “hardship relief, if granted, would still require the installation of an ignition interlock in the car.

Over the last several years, there has been a continuous increase in Westchester County DWI arrests.The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services reports that adult arrests for felony or misdemeanor DWI went from 2,337 in 2002 to 2,650 in 2007. The Westchester County Department of Probation notes that those convicted of DWI offenses account for 23% of their cases.

Contact The White Plains, New York drunk driving lawyers at The Law Office Of Mark A. Siesel online or toll free at (914) 428-7386 if you or a loved one has been charged with DWI, DWAID, or any other drunk driving offense for a free consultation to discuss your legal rights and options with an experienced DWI attorney.