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“Alix’s Law” stalls again in New York Assembly

A bill intended to impose criminal liability for injuries and deaths caused by drunk drivers who leave the scene of an accident has once again stalled in the New York Assembly. The bill’s main advocate is a woman whose daughter was killed by an allegedly drunk driver who left the scene of the accident and was later acquitted of any criminal conduct.

In 2011, the girl, named Alix, was longboarding on a city street in Amherst. She was struck and killed by an automobile driven by a physician who had allegedly been drinking and driving. The driver left the scene of the accident because, as he later claimed, he was not aware that he had hit anyone. The driver was acquitted of second-degree manslaughter, second-degree vehicular manslaughter and a number of related charges because the jury apparently accepted his testimony that he was not drunk at the time of the accident and was not aware that he had hit anyone.

The verdict of acquittal sparked outrage and caused various legislators to sponsor a bill, known by proponents as “Alix’s Law,” that would require that drunk drivers who leave the scene of an accident be presumed to know they had hit someone. In effect, a person who was drunk at the time of a collision and who left the scene of the accident would not be allowed to testify that he or she was not aware of the accident. The bill has passed the New York Senate several times, but it has never made it out of the assembly.

Even without this measure, a person who is charged with DUI and who injures or kills another person can be charged with several serious felonies, including vehicular homicide and vehicular assault. Such charges are extremely serious because the mere fact that charges were made, regardless of the ultimate verdict, can have consequences that affect the rest of that person’s life. Anyone who has been charged with injuring or killing a person while driving under the influence of alcohol may wish to consult an attorney who specializes in such cases. Such a consultation will provide an informative assessment of the facts of the case and an evaluation of the probability of obtaining an acquittal.

Source: Buffalo News, “Alix’s Law hits a familiar roadblock in an Assembly Democrat leader,” Donn Esmonde, May 30, 2015