ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Prosecutors on Long Island say hit-and-run cases are becoming all too common as they are pushing for new laws in the waning days of a session in Albany.
A driver is now admitting he hit a visually-impaired pedestrian, but claims at the time he had no idea he had hit and killed someone, CBS2’s Alice Gainer reported.
Rudy Velasquez-Morales is the latest driver charged in a hit-and-run, Suffolk police said.
“He was uncertain of the accident and causing someone’s injury,” defense attorney John LoTurco said.
Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota is renewing the push for stiffer penalties for drivers who flee deadly crashes. Cases have more than tripled in the county over the last decade. Drunk drivers are well-versed in a loophole and often get far less time by fleeing than if they stay at the scene and face driving under the influence.
“It would be a deterrent and it should be a punishment, too. You kill somebody, you leave them on the side of the road to die,” Spota said.
The deterrent is too late for Esther Dora. Her son Michael, who was in a wheelchair, was killed last month.
“He did not just kill my son, he murdered my son,” Dora said.
Dennis Hughes, who lost his daughter Erika Hughes to a hit-and-run accident, also spoke out.
“He ran down my daughter and left her on the side of the road to die and got less than two years and he’s out,” Hughes said.
Victims’ families are pleading for stiffer penalties of up to 15 years, nearly doubling prison time.
The drunk driver who fled after killing victim Scott Wayte is serving four years.
“It’s hard to come back here and continue to ask for something that just makes sense,” Brooke Wayte, the victim’s daughter, said.
Legislation has been stalling for years. Velasquez-Morales’ attorney said he has no objection to stiffer penalties if there is evidence a driver was drunk or high.
“He was not impaired in any way. This was an accident and an accident only,” LoTurco said.
Advocates say five years of lobbying has fallen on deaf ears, pointing out that eight hit-and-run drivers in Suffolk County have injured or killed victims this year already.
“More and more people are leaving the scene after killing people, a person or seriously injuring them,” Spota said, as reported by WCBS 880’s Mike Xirinachs.
The Senate version of the bill passed in March and will have to pass the Transportation Committee this month in order to even be considered by full assembly this session.