As District Attorney of Manhattan my top priority must be to ensure public safety. Strong preventative measures must be taken by police and prosecutors with the goal of reducing dangerous driving incidents with potentially tragic outcomes.
- Community-Based Ideology: The DA’s office must become closer to the communities it services in order to fully understand their needs and concerns. This is critical as prosecutors assigned to cover a specific community, will be more attuned to the complaints of the members of the community, and thus better equipped to work with police to identify and target problem streets or intersections before a tragedy occurs.
- Vehicular Crime Unit: I called first among the DA candidates for a dedicated Vehicular Crime Unit within the District Attorney's office.
- This Unit will, among other tasks, pay special attention to high-risk intersections or traffic zones in particular neighborhoods that have histories of high-traffic fatalities and work to strategize how law enforcement can play a positive role in reducing dangerous incidences in such areas.
- This Unit will focus on felony and misdemeanor cases involving traffic fatalities, traffic assaults, reckless driving, and other road violations.
- Prosecutors designated to the Unit will be trained to address the complex issues specific to vehicular crime and the significance of early intervention against dangerous drivers. First time offenders who disregard traffic laws must be disciplined with the intent to stop them from committing their vehicular crimes again, with deadly results; this strategy must be promoted by both prosecutors and police.
- In addition, the members of this Unit will receive substantial training in the forensics of automobile investigation and crash-site reconstruction, as well as comprehensive legal instruction and in-depth training in the complex laws of New York vehicular crime.
- Progressive Legislative Initiatives: I have and will continue to explicitly call for legislation to aggressively target repeat vehicular crime offenders and enforce heightened punishment for repeat offenders. The same offense time and time again should not result in the same level of prosecution – repercussions must increase accordingly. I will work diligently with New York City’s advocacy groups to instigate this critical change in the law and bring it to fruition.
- Proactive Speeding Initiatives: As DA I will organize the DA’s office to work proactively and diligently with the NYPD to reduce speeding offenses; with the goal to seriously reduce the number of 2,400 annual motor vehicle crashes in New York City. It is critical that first time speeding offenders receive sanctions that actually deter them from committing their crime again. The power of the law must be used to provide defensive driving education to those who require it.
- Vehicular Homicide Initiatives:
- Penalty Increase: Increasing penalties attached to the offense of vehicular homicide and/or assault in instances where drugs or alcohol are not present is extremely important. For example, a driver operating a car who is knowingly compromised by extreme exhaustion to the point where they can no longer operate their vehicle safely is without question behaving in a dangerous, unsafe, and irresponsible manner, and serious penalties should apply. Assembly member Robert Sweeney introduced legislation that “[p]enalizes crimes of vehicular assault and vehicular manslaughter as felonies when such crimes are committed while driving with a suspended or revoked license.” I believe that the State Assembly should pursue this legislation. I am also aware of pending legislation which would establish the crime of operating a vehicle while fatigued, where the result of such operation is serious physical injury or death to another person. These are important areas which require further attention by law enforcement and legislators.
- Rule of Two: There is no reason why two traffic violations are necessary in order to support a conviction of criminally negligent homicide. I view the “Rule of Two” as the result of case law which should be modified to reflect the reality that one vehicular crime is fully capable of killing. Although in recent years this notion has been applied by the courts in a less strict manner – it is indisputable that it does not take two violations to kill someone. Many violations -- speeding, running a red light, or failing to stop at a stop sign are more than dangerous enough to take a life.
- Prosecutor Cooperation with the NYPD: Death by vehicle requires stringent, serious, and methodical on-site investigations by the NYPD and prosecutors. Assistant District Attorneys must work cooperatively with the NYPD and both must be fully trained in forensic accident reconstruction. Preparing our police and prosecutors to handle such cases can vastly improve investigations of traffic deaths. My ultimate goal remains disciplined and sophisticated case-by-case assessments of vehicular crimes. Prosecutors must be trained to take the totality of the circumstances into consideration; this strategy will ensure that the people of New York City are fairly, properly, and justly served.