Legislators look to toughen penalties in hit-runs

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State legislators are moving to toughen the penalty for hit-and-run crashes after a spate of them in the past month.

The bill, introduced by Sen. Martin J. Golden (R-Brookly) and supported by Sen. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), comes two weeks after a Shirley man objected to the sentence being given to the unlicensed driver who struck his daughter and left her dying in the middle of Mastic Road.

"Many drivers believe if they are intoxicated or under the influence of drugs, they risk more jail time by staying at the scene," Zeldin said. "It is a problem with state law that needs to be fixed. You're not going to see any benefit [any longer] from leaving the scene."

Golden's bill, which is co-sponsored by most of the Long Island State Senate delegation as well as Assembs. Ed Hennessey (D-Medford) and Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor), increases the maximum penalty for leaving the scene of a fatal accident to 5 to 15 years in prison, the same as second-degree manslaughter. The maximum now is 2 1/3 to 7 years.

Dennis Hughes of Shirley, backed by Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota, called for tougher penalties after Preston Mimms was sentenced to 1 1/3 to 4 years in prison for the death of Erika Hughes, 24. Spota again demanded action earlier this week on a day when three people were charged in hit-and-run crashes.

Spota was pleased with the rapid response from legislators."It'll be exactly what I asked for," he said.

The penalty for leaving the scene of an accident with injuries also will increase if the bill passes. The maximum now is 1 1/3 to 4 years. If the bill passes, it would be 2 1/3 to 7 years. Zeldin said an identical bill passed the State Senate in 2011. He said he hopes the backing of Democrats this year helps it pass the Assembly this time.

Dennis Hughes could not be reached for comment Friday.

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