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ALBANY - State legislators approved a bill Tuesday that would toughen penalties against hit-and-run drivers -- making it punishable by up to 15 years in prison in some circumstances.

The bill would create a new crime of "Aggravated Leaving the Scene of an Incident," said Assemb. Fred Thiele (I-Sag Harbor), sponsor of the measure in the Assembly.

It would heighten the current crime of leaving the scene of an incident if the offender is found to have been convicted previously of leaving the scene, driving while intoxicated or having a suspended or revoked driver's license.

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The new crime could be punishable by up to 15 years in prison if the offender has a prior conviction, Thiele said.

He said tougher penalties were needed because "the way the law is written now, there is an incentive for leaving the scene of an incident because the DWI penalty is worse than the penalty for leaving the scene."

Thiele and co-sponsor Assemb. Dean Murray (R-East Patchogue) noted in a memo supporting the bill that Suffolk County alone recorded 13 fatalities in 2012 involving offenses in which drivers left the scene of an incident.

It now will be up to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to sign or veto the bill.

                                                                                                      

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