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Gov. Cuomo signs Vincent's Law: tougher penalties for repeat DWI offenders

By ANNA MEILER

ORISKANY, N.Y. (WKTV) -- Vincent Russo, an 82-year-old man from upstate, was killed three years ago on his way to church.

"He was killed in a head-on crash by an offender with five prior DWI's and had done no jail time at all," said Robert Swenszkowski, the Oneida County Undersheriff.

The way the laws were written, such repeat offenses may not have been prosecuted as felonies at all.

"On the scales of justice, it's tipped in the offender's favor, not the victim's favor," said Swenszkowski.

On Friday, Gov. Cuomo signed "Vincent's Law," making it so that a person caught drinking and driving three times in 15 years will be charged with a felony, facing a maximum of seven years in prison and up to a $10 thousand fine.

In the second half of 2013 and the first half of 2014, there were 90 arrests for drinking and driving in Utica, 34 in New Hartford, 39 in Rome and 26 in Whitesboro. Swenszkowski says those numbers are lower than past years, but the problem is seeing the same people offend over and over.

"They're the ones that are getting into the accidents, that are causing serious injury or death and a lot of it is due to the lack of penalty. Some don't go to prison at all, some have spent just some time in county jail, a lot of them are receiving probation and fines so this is basically heightening the level of deterreance to say there's going to be a stiffer penalty for those who continue to do it," said Swenszkowski.

In a phone interview, Vincent Russo's sister-in-law told NEWSChannel 2 their family is very relieved this law has been passed, and they hope it prevents future accidents caused by drinking and driving.

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