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New rules deny licenses for repeat DWIs

ALBANY -- State officials issued new regulations yesterday that will effectively prevent serial drunken drivers -- such as those with five or more offenses -- from renewing their licenses.

Current state laws put few restrictions on drivers with five or more drunken driving or drug-related driving convictions from regaining their licenses.

Sidestepping the Legislature, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's administration announced that the state Department of Motor Vehicles will deny license reinstatements to anyone convicted of five or more DWI-type offenses in his/her lifetime and to anyone with three or more DWI-type convictions plus one other serious driving offense, such as a fatal crash. DMV also will review the lifetime record of anyone applying to have a license reinstated after it has been revoked.

"These are obviously people who pose a threat to the public and should not be granted the privilege of driving on our highways," DMV Commissioner Barbara Fiala said.

In addition, DMV announced restrictions for drivers with three or more alcohol- or drug-related driving convictions but with no other serious driving offenses who are trying to reinstate their licenses.

These drivers could have their licenses revoked an extra five years if the original revocation was for an alcohol- or drug-related offense. After that, their license would be classified as "restricted," good only for driving to work and medical appointments. If the original revocation was for an alcohol-related incident, they would have to equip their vehicles with an interlock device to check the driver from starting the vehicle if his/her blood-alcohol content is above the legal limit.

The new policies took effect Tuesday, officials said. Fiala said the agency didn't need the Legislature to enact a new statute; DMV is acting under its emergency rule-making powers.

Under current law, someone convicted of multiple alcohol- or drug-related offenses cannot permanently lose his or her license. The only scenario in which a driver's license could be permanently revoked is if he or she has two alcohol- or drug-related convictions stemming from separate crashes involving a physical injury, state officials said.

State Police Superintendent Joseph D'Amico said the public has grown more aware of the dangers of drunken driving but that repeat offenders have been a problem. He said that in 2010 about 28 percent of alcohol-related crashes statewide involved someone with three or more alcohol-related convictions -- up from 22 percent in 2005.

About 17,500 New York-licensed drivers who have had three or more alcohol-related convictions have been involved in at least one crash that killed or injured someone, officials said.Warren County District Attorney Kate Hogan said local police recently pulled over a driver who had eight DWIs and another with nine.

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