Scott Wayte resident of Brookhaven was celebrating his 50th birthday with family on Dec. 28, 2012 when he was hit and killed by Joseph Plummer, age 49 and a two times felon. He fled the scene and after his trial received a 2 to 6 years imprisonment sentence.
Daughter of the victim Brooke Wayte stated that the penalty was like an insult to the family. She could not believe that this convict who already committed two felons will only stay in jail for two to six years.
A few months after Plummer’s sentence, a young Riverhead mother, identified as Kristina Tfelt was hit and run by a Cadillac on Route 58 crash. Until now, the two men who were responsible for the crime that July night have not been apprehended.
The office of the County District Attorney in Suffolk, along with agencies from local law enforcement, attorneys and families of the victims has initiated a move for stiffer punishments given to hit-and-run drivers. They claimed that the current legal system gives felons or drunken drivers wider leeway to get off easily.
District Attorney Thomas Spota announced in a press conference after Plummer’s arrest this case was a prime example of why state lawmakers need to step up and change the law.
According to the State Penal Code of New York, leaving the scene of an accident that caused death is a class D felony with only a maximum sentence of 2 to 7 years imprisonment. Prosecutors stated that fleeing the scene makes it harder for authorities to bring a driver up on harsher charges.
Under the changes proposed in Albany, leaving a C felony fatal crash scene has a prison penalty of 7 to 15 years confinement.
Suffolk County police responding to rash of fatal car accidents established a Vehicular Crime Unit, and under the office of the D.A. Spota set up a task force of prosecutors who immediately go to hit-and-run incidents to begin working with police.
D.A. Spota said until the law is changed, there will be little incentive for people to stay at accident scenes if they have something to hide.
Police of Riverhead Town said hat hit-and-runs, whether serious or minor, are increasing. Lt. David Lessard believed that the trend is caused by the growing population of their town where drunk or unlicensed drivers flee to avoid more serious charges.
Lt. Lessard said their department is in full supports to the DA’s proposal but he is doubtful whether s much higher penalty is enough deterrent to hit-snd-run drivers.
Former Nassau County prosecutor Michael Sabolinski said that hit-and-runs also put a strain on civil cases. Sabolinski said that there are several hit-and-run related cases including pedestrians or cars hitting, Some are just accidents but it is different when the driver flees.
He said that by making outreach efforts, it would spread awareness needed to encourage drivers to remain at scene. This can be achieved by means of (1) giving hit-and-run drivers a plea deal; (2) speak to students at local high school on the danger of driving DUI; and (3) concern to public safety.
Yet Schalk believed that a higher maximum sentence should be imposed for those drivers who leave a fatal accident.
Source: River Head News Review Times Review Com