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You Don’t Need to Be Behind the Wheel to Feel the Consequences of Drunk Driving

Drinking alcohol while driving the carIn New York City, an unusual DUI case is coming to a head that raises the question of whether or not a drunken driver is at fault even after getting out from behind the wheel.

According to the New York Post, 28-year-old James Ryan is being charged with vehicular homicide in the death of Nassau County Police Officer Joseph Olivieri.

Olivieri was struck and killed upon arriving at a pair of accidents allegedly caused by Ryan back in 2012. The charges stem from the “series of events” set in motion by Ryan’s drunk driving.

After first clipping a BMW with his Toyota, Ryan pulled to the side of a high-occupancy lane just to be hit by another vehicle. Only a few minutes later, an SUV driver who did not see the cars, smashed into Ryan’s vehicle, and then into Olivieri, all while Ryan was simply leaning against a guardrail.

A state appeals court remarked that it was “reasonably foreseeable that the defendant’s conduct would cause collisions and that the police would respond and be required to be in the roadway, where they would be exposed to the potentially lethal danger presented by fast-moving traffic.”

However, Ryan’s defense attorney Marc Gann stated, “There’s nobody else to criminally blame, so they blame Ryan… It’s extremely unusual for a person not driving to be charged with a vehicular death.”

When tested, Ryan had a blood alcohol level of 0.13; New York State’s threshold for drunk driving is 0.08.

The part-time student could now be facing up to 25 years in prison if convicted of aggravated vehicular homicide, manslaughter, driving while intoxicated, and a number of other charges.

While Ryan’s case is an extreme example of the repercussions of drunk driving, he is only one of the more than 1.4 million people arrested for first DUI offenses every year.

The continuously high rates of DUIs have sparked much outcry for stricter legislation on drunk driving.

For example, the Kentucky New Era reports that State Sen. Dennis Parrett is bringing a bill to the Senate floor for a vote that would expand what’s called the “look-back period” for prior offenses from five to 10 years.

In the state of Kentucky, a fourth DUI conviction within a five-year span is considered a felony. Increasing the look-back window will allow more past convictions to be considered for sentencing.

“As I told my colleagues last year, I don’t want to lessen the severity for anyone, but one DUI — though it is still very serious — could be a mistake,” Parrett said. “Two DUIs are not a mistake. Three, four and five DUIs are big problems.”

This legislation would be called the Brianna Taylor Act in honor of the 17-year-old Elizabethtown High School graduate killed in a drunk driving accident in 2014.

In Taylor’s case, the man who hit her could only be charged with a first offense DUI because his last conviction occurred before the look-back limitation.

If passed by the Senate, the Brianna Taylor Act will be brought to the House of Representatives for further consideration.