Editor’s note: The following information was provided by the Legislative Press and Public Information Bureau.
STATE HOUSE – Sen. Leonidas P. Raptakis (D-Dist. 33, Coventry, East Greenwich, West Greenwich), Sen. John P. Burke (D-Dist. 9, West Warwick) and Rep. Patricia A. Serpa (D-Dist. 27, West Warwick, Coventry, Warwick) will be reintroducing several bills to stiffen penalties for repeat driving under the influence offenders when the General Assembly begins its new legislative session in January.
“In early 2022, the Dennison family endured the most horrific tragedy any family can, by losing our 17 year old son Matthew to the poor and selfish decisions of a drunk and drugged driver. Senator Leonidas Raptakis and Representative Patricia Serpa have been instrumental in our new mission of holding violators of Rhode Island’s DUI laws to account by implementing stiffer penalties for DUI, removing protections for those who offend by being able to look back at their record 10 years rather than 5 years, and by immediately removing the license plate of any car driven by an offender who has a suspended license for DUI or refuses a breathalyzer/chemical test. While my wife Brenda, daughter Kaitlyn, and I see these bills as a positive step forward, we hope they are only the beginning in creating laws so tough on DUI offenders that they act as a deterrent, rather than just a punishment. It is our greatest wish that no family has to go through what ours has endured. It’s time for Rhode Island to be seen as a model of DUI laws and by accomplishing that, we will all be safer,” said Mark Dennison, father of drunk driving victim, Mathew Dennison.
“Drunk drivers, especially repeat offenders and especially those whose irresponsible actions cause harm to others, should not be on the road, period,” said Senator Raptakis. “I don’t care how remorseful they seem when they appear before a judge. The punishment for this type of reckless disregard for the welfare of others needs to be much tougher. Until it is, drunks are going to keep getting behind the wheel and causing mayhem on our roads will continue.”
“The serious and devastating problem of drunk and impaired driving is not going away so we must redouble our efforts to stamp out this atrocious and damaging behavior. I am proud to cosponsor these bills once again in hopes that they make our roads safer for our families and friends,” said Senator Burke.
“Every year we are faced with more senseless tragedy as our residents continue to get hurt, maimed or killed in accidents caused by driving under the influence. Too many of our children, our family members, friends and neighbors have been taken away from us too early due to the criminal actions of those who get behind a wheel while drunk or high. These bills will send a stiff message that this selfish and destructive behavior will be met with severe consequences, hopefully sparing more families from living with the heartbreaking reality of losing a loved one to a drunk driver,” said Representative Serpa.
The first bill (2022-S 2010) would increase the penalties for those convicted of driving under the influence resulting in death and driving under the influence resulting in serious bodily injury.
The second piece of legislation (2022-S 2012) would increase from 5 years to 10 years the period in which prior DUI convictions qualify a person for increased penalties for subsequent convictions.
The third bill (2022-S 2011) would require the license plates of a vehicle to be confiscated if the owner is arrested for driving while the license was suspended, revoked or canceled for a number of offenses, including driving under the influence and refusing to submit to a breath test.
“From our point of view, we can no longer afford to continue the status quo. We’ve heard these bills year after year while people have continued to get hurt and killed on our roads. We know people drive drunk, we know they continue to drive drunk after being convicted and their license has been suspended or revoked, we know they cause damage and death. We need to act and we need to get tough,” said Senators Raptakis, Burke and Representative Serpa.
Senator Raptakis notes that a recent vehicle crash in North Kingstown over the weekend is evidence that more needs to be done in order to eliminate drunk driving from our society.
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