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NY top court upholds suspensions for persistent DWI offenders


The state’s highest court on Tuesday upheld New York’s new regulations that imposed tougher suspension periods on persistent drunken drivers.

The Court of Appeals, in a 5-0 decision, rejected claims that the regulations were arbitrary and capricious, and amounted to a retroactive punishment. Among other things, the regulations, adopted in 2012, allow for a lifetime driver’s license suspension for someone who incurs five DWIs in a 25-year period and a 5-year suspension for someone with three or four convictions in the same span.

Judge Michael Garcia, writing for the court, said the law gives the state commissioner of motor vehicles broad authority on setting conditions for taking away a driver’s license. Further, previous lawsuits challenging the state’s anti-smoking laws showed that state officials can tailor regulations to address social problems, the judge noted.

Garcia said current drunken driving laws demonstrate that state lawmakers “evince a clear legislative policy decision to restrict the driving privileges of recidivist drunk drivers, and to entrust relicensing determinations to the sound discretion of the commissioner.”

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who championed the new regulations in 2012, said the tougher conditions have resulted in 13,600 relicensing denials since 2012. In a statement, he said: “This unanimous and unequivocal ruling affirms this policy, which will help us continue our work to protect New Yorkers and prevent avoidable tragedies once and for all.”

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