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Tiffany’s Law could crack down on drunk boaters, drivers

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A bill designed to increase the penalties associated with repeated operating a vehicle while intoxicated charges passed the state Senate this week and has been delivered to the Assembly.

Known as “Tiffany’s Law,” the bill would require all prior convictions of operating a vehicle while intoxicated be considered during sentencing, even if the prior convictions occurred on different types of vehicles.

“I think this is another common sense thing,” co-sponsor Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, said.

Tiffany’s Law is named after Tiffany Heitkamp a Syracuse-area woman killed in a boating accident in 2006 involving a drunken boat operator.

While the operator of the boat had a record of alcohol related car incidents, because there is currently no link between driving while intoxicated, snowmobiling while intoxicated and boating while intoxicated, he was only charged as if it was his first offense.

Mr. Griffo said the only sensible move is to link drunken driving offenses, regardless of the vehicle.

“It’s responsible and appropriate linkage,” he said.

Bill sponsor Sen. John A. DeFrancisco, R-Syracuse, said in a press release, “If an individual has a history of operating any kind of vehicle or vessel while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, it should be taken into account when the individual is charged and sentenced.”

Mr. Griffo said this is a cultural issue.

“Society agrees this is unacceptable behavior,” Mr. Griffo said, adding that the law should change to better reflect societal expectations of people’s behavior.

But the bill has faltered in the Assembly before. Last year the Senate passed the same legislation and it was shot down in the lower chamber.

“There seems to be resistance to increasing penalties in the Assembly,” Mr. Griffo said, adding that the Democratic majority Assembly may have different priorities than the Senate.

Mr. Griffo said he isn’t sure how much support there is in the Assembly, but he hopes it will gain traction.

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