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Westchester's DWI Forfeiture Law Goes Into Effect Tomorrow
Just in time for the holidays.
Motorists in Westchester County are facing a tough new law designed to combat drinking and driving.
The County's landmark legislation that would require the forfeiture of vehicles for individuals convicted of operating under the influence of alcohol or drugs goes into effect on Wednesday.
The law only applies to convictions resulting from arrests by Westchester County Police.
The measure's sponsor, Peter Harckham (D-Katonah), said the bill was greatly needed because despite educational efforts to stop DWI, arrests continued to escalate, many of which were repeat offenses.
Said Harkham, "Portland, Oregon showed a 50% reduction in recidivism, and if we can do that to bring down the caseload in our Probation Department we can save lives and we can save tax dollars."
Legislator Martin Rogowsky (D-Harrison) who chairs the Committee on Public Safety and Security, said the message of the legislation is loud and clear "If you drink and drive in Westchester you will lose your car."
DWI arrests have been on the uptick in Westchester County. Over the past four years, adult arrests in Westchester for felony and misdemeanor DWI rose from 2,337 in 2002 to 2,650 in 2007. Nationally, 17,000 people are killed in alcohol-related accidents, about 80% of which involve repeat drunk drivers.
The new law contains several clauses which expressly permit lessors and lienholders of vehicles to recover the cars if seized by the County.
It also contains a "hardship relief" provision, in which the vehicle is returned if the defendant can establish that such forfeiture would impose substantial and unwarranted burdens on his/her ability to travel to work, school or medical treatment.
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