Just in time for Memorial Day, Albany County District Attorney David Soares has announced a round of traffic safety and policy changes involving the prosecution of vehicular crimes in Albany County.
Soares announced Friday morning that as an addition to current DWI policy in Albany County, his office will no longer allow plea reductions to charges of Vehicle and Traffic Law 1198, Circumventing an Ignition Interlock Device. It's a class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in custody.
Mary Tanner-Richter is Bureau Chief of the Albany County Vehicular Crimes Unit: "The whole purpose of that is dealing with people who clearly have made choices in the past to get behind the wheel when they shouldn't have, and since they aren't able to make those wise decisions themselves, the courts are now requiring them to put on Ignition Interlock devices. And that is part of the plea. That is a court order to have that device installed for a minimum of a year. And now, in this county, we're holding your feet to the fire, and expecting you to do what the court's requiring and hopefully that will have an impact and we'll see a few less crashes on our roads."
Soares says he's taking a zero tolerance stance because despite the court orders, offenders continue to circumvent the law by not installing the devices at all, or tampering with the devices so that they do not work. His office is sending letters notifying local and town courts that they may no longer prosecute cases involving Law 1198. "What we have seen is because we had delegated the prosecution of vehicle and traffic cases to the municipalities we've seen a patchwork of the application of this law and the prosecution of it. And what we want to see is consistency. And that's the reason why we're sending out that letter today informing them that from this moment forward, we're going to be prosecuting those cases as part of our workload."
Soares presented a short slideshow and noted the Town of Colonie was the site of several impaired driving-related crimes. Town Attorney Michael Magguilli, reached Friday afternoon, had not yet seen Soares' letter and reserved comment.
According to the state Department of Motor Vehicles statistics, there has been an increase statewide in the number of violations with regard to law 1198. Arrests more than quadrupled from 2011 to 2016: There were 817 charges in 2011, as compared with 3,726 in 2016 across New York state. "Our aggressive posture on DWI is an effort to really send a powerful message and get people to think twice about operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Not everyone shares that opinion.”
An awareness effort and action plan is being launched to highlight the compliance efforts for the criminal offense of circumventing an interlock ignition device. Coordinated sweeps aimed at catching offenders this summer begin on Monday.
- Albany County was selected by the GTSC as one of three counties in New York State to participate in a coordinated training by DCJS this summer, with a goal to increase compliance with DWI laws. The coordinated effort specifically trained law enforcement to identify and make the proper arrest of those individuals attempting to operate a motor vehicle without a court ordered interlock device. The program also included funding for coordinated sweeps that will be aimed at catching offenders this summer between the Memorial Day and Labor Day holidays.
- Participating local law enforcement agencies include the Albany County Sheriff’s Office, the Colonie and Guilderland Police Departments, and the Albany County Department of Probation.
- A press release was previously sent out from DCJS and GTSC detailing the program. Please click here for a link to their press release.