STATE HOUSE – “If a drunk driver kills an innocent individual simply because of his or her own recklessness, lack of sound judgment and total lack of concern for others, the punishment cannot be sever enough,” said Rep. Dennis M. Canario (D-Dist. 71, Portsmouth, Little Compton, Tiverton).
Current state law allows for individuals convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, resulting in death, to be imprisoned for a term of five to 15 years on a first offense and from 10 to 20 years on a second or subsequent offense.
Legislation introduced this week by Representative Canario would give judges the latitude to imprison such offenders for life.
“We already provide a certain leeway for judges when determining prison time for individuals convicted of this horrific crime,” said Representative Canario. “That suggests to me that although the end result is the same -- the needless death of an innocent person -- some of these incidents call for a stiffer punishment and more years behind bars. I would like to see judges have the option, in dealing with the most heinous incidents, to make those prison terms longer, right up to and including life.”
According to Rhode Island MADD, which has consulted with Representative Canario on the legislation, there were 24 drunk driving fatalities in the state last year, representing 37 percent of all traffic deaths.
“What could be more clear?” said Representative Canario, a retired Portsmouth police officer. “Alcohol and automobiles are a dangerous combination, and anyone ignoring that fact, anyone getting behind the wheel while impaired by alcohol or drugs is showing total disregard for the welfare of others. Those who cause the ultimate harm – the death of another individual – deserve no leniency.”
The Canario bill, 2015-H 6073, has been referred to the House Committee on Judiciary. Among the more than three dozen co-sponsors are Rep. John G. Edwards (D-Dist. 70, Tiverton, Portsmouth), Rep. Raymond H. Johnston Jr. (D-Dist. 61, Pawtucket), Rep. Raymond A. Hull (D-Dist. 6, Providence, North Providence) and Rep. Joseph S. Almeida (D-Dist. 12, Providence).
For more information, contact:
Randall T. Szyba, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903