Sens. Raptakis, Sosnowski and Rep. Serpa hold press conference on drunk driving legislation
On the eve of Memorial Day weekend, several of the bills will be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee after Thursday’s Senate session
STATE HOUSE – Sens. Leonidas P. Raptakis and V. Susan Sosnowski and Rep. Patricia A. Serpa held a press conference at the State House to call attention to several bills that strengthen the penalties for drunk, impaired and reckless driving offenses.
“Drunk drivers, especially repeat offenders and especially those whose irresponsible actions cause harm to others, should not be on the road, period,” said Senator Raptakis (D-Dist. 33, Coventry, West Greenwich). “I don’t care how remorseful they seem when they appear before a judge. The punishment for this type of reckless disregard for the welfare of others needs to be much tougher. Since drunk driving deaths and injuries caused by repeat offenders have not decreased in our state, it’s obvious that the status quo is not protecting Rhode Islanders and that these bills addressing the problem need to be passed. Until they are, drunks are going to keep getting behind the wheel and causing mayhem and tragedy on our roads.”
The legislators were joined by Sens. Ana B. Quezada (D-Dist. 2, Providence), Sandra Cano (D-Dist. 8, Pawtucket), John P. Burke (D-Dist. 9, West Warwick) and David P. Tikoian (D-Dist. 22, Smithfield, Lincoln, North Providence); Rep. Thomas E. Noret (D-Dist. 25, Coventry, West Warwick); Lt. Governor Sabina Matos; Adi Goldstein, Deputy Attorney General; Director Peter Alviti, Jr., RI Department of Transportation; Chief Kevin Lynch, Bristol Police Department; Gabe Abbate, RI Highway Safety Chief; Wesley Pennington, Program Director for Mothers Against Drunk Driving RI; Lt. Colonel Robert Creamer, RI State Police; Diana Gugliotta, Director Public Government Affairs, Public Affairs, AAA Northeast; as well as Kathy Andreozzi, Founder of Tori Lynn Andreozzi Foundation, and Kristine Bouthiller, representing the Dennison Family of West Warwick.
Later in the evening, the Senate Judiciary Committee will hear testimony on the following bills highlighted at the press conference:
· 2023-S 0118, introduced by Senator Raptakis would increase the sentences, fines or both for driving so as to endanger, resulting in death or personal injury. Representative Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry) has introduced the bill (2023-H 5213) in the House.
· 2023-S 0119, introduced by Senator Raptakis, would extend the lookback period for repeat offenses involving driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs and for repeat offenses related to failure or refusal to submit to chemical tests from five years to ten years. Representative Serpa introduced the bill (2023-H 5216) in the House.
· 2023-S 0332, introduced by Senator Raptakis, would increase the penalty for anyone found guilty of eluding a police vehicle in high speed pursuit to a felony punishable by up to five years imprisonment, a fine of between five thousand and ten thousand dollars, a loss of license from one to two years and a possible forfeiture their motor vehicle.
· 2023-S 0737, sponsored by Senator Sosnowski (D-Dist. 37, South Kingstown), would provide for a single, increased range of penalties for all driving offenses which result in serious bodily injury or death. Representative Serpa introduced the bill (2023-H 6028) in the House.
· 2023-S 0899, sponsored by Senator Sosnowski, would clarify and separate the different criminal penalties for first and subsequent convictions for reckless driving. Representative Noret introduced the bill (2023-H 5890) in the House.
· 2023-S 0331, sponsored by Senator Burke, would increase the penalties for a first offense of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death to a minimum five years in incarceration, a minimum of $10,000 and a minimum license revocation of five years. Representative Noret introduced the bill (2023-H 5699) in the House.