Repeat Offender Calls Stiff DWI Penalties a Pipe Dream

     ALBANY, N.Y. (CN) – A man whose driver’s license has been revoked three times for drunken driving wants New York to stop delaying action on his application for a new license in the vain hope that legislators enact stiffer penalties for repeat offenders.
     Richard Schubert of Ballston Spa wants the Albany County Supreme Court to force the state Department of Motor Vehicles to process his application since he meets “the present criteria for reissuance.”
     “My application should not be held up indefinitely with the respondent evidently hoping that some time in the future I may be permanently denied a driver’s license,” his Article 78 petition states.
     Schubert attributes the DMV delay to a bill in the Assembly chamber of the New York State Legislature. The one-house bill – it has no Senate sponsor – would increase the mandatory minimum fine and the length of time a driver’s license is revoked for second and subsequent convictions on driving while intoxicated, according to a sponsor memo accompanying the legislation.
     The fine would jump to $2,500 from $1,000, and the revocation period would double to two years from one, after a second DWI conviction within a 10-year period, the memo states. Anyone convicted of DWI three or more times within a 10-year period would face permanent revocation, but they could apply for a “permanently probationary” license after passage of a subsequent decade.
     Assemblyman Tom McKevitt, a Long Island Republican representing East Meadow, introduced the bill in the Legislature’s 2012 session.
     His sponsor memo says existing penalties are inadequate.
     “It is important that the DMV commissioner be given the authority to permanently disqualify these repeat DWI offenders from holding a driver’s license,” the memo states. “It is expected such increased penalties will help deter repeat offenders.”
     Legislators have introduced the measure nearly annually between 1998 and 2007, with McKevitt taking up the mantle after his 2006 election.
     But the bill is guaranteed to go nowhere fast since McKevitt belongs to the minority party in the Democratic Assembly, and there is no similar measure pending in the Republican Senate.
     Schubert says McKevitt’s bill has been sitting in committee and “there are no votes for this bill in this legislative session.”
     Indeed, the state Legislature wrapped up its regular 2012 session on June 21. While lawmakers could return to Albany for a special session after the November election, they likely would limit their work to a narrow number of unfinished issues, such as a proposal to raise the state’s minimum wage.
     Schubert claims that the DMV has delayed action on as many as 900 approvals. He says he learned this from “Jackie” at the agency’s Driver Improvement Bureau, a division he contacted after waiting weeks for information about the hold on his application.
     “She did not further explain and told me to be patient,” the petition says
     Driving records show that Schubert’s license was revoked for DWI in 1989, 1991 and 2000.
     He says he initiated the licensing reapplication process in December 2011, and that he passed the written test and eye exam at the Saratoga Springs DMV in early February.
     At the desk where the DMV issues learner’s permits, however, Schubert allegedly learned that “there was a hold on the approval,” and that he would receive a letter explaining why in about a week.
     Schubert claims that the letter never arrived, and that he returned to the Saratoga Springs office twice in March, as well speaking to “Jackie.”
     “To date, I have received no response to my application or explanation from the Department of Motor Vehicles,” Schubert claims.
     The petition says McKevitt’s bill would “give the commissioner of the Department of Motor Vehicles authority to permanently disqualify persons with repeat DWI offenses in their records from ever holding a driver’s license.”
     “By holding up my application and refusing to allow me to proceed further to obtain a driver’s license, respondent is acting in violation of lawful procedure, its determination to delay my driver’s license is effected by an error of law, and is arbitrary, capricious, and an abuse of discretion,” Schubert says.
     The court should direct the DMV to let his application “progress normally so that I may obtain my learner’s permit and eventually a driver’s license,” Schubert says.
     He is represented by Robert Cohen of Ballston Lake.

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