Suffolk County lawmakers have passed legislation that would allow police to seize vehicles from convicted hit-and-run drivers in very serious or fatal accidents.
The law was passed unanimously by all 18 legislators Tuesday night. It will take effect in as soon as 60 days.
"If you hit someone or seriously injure them or you kill them and you leave, we're going to take the car. It's gone," said Legislator Kate Browning of Shirley.
According to Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota, there were 11 fatal hit-and-runs in Suffolk in 2012, and the number of overall hit-and-runs are on the rise.
When a convicted hit-and-run driver's car is seized, there's nothing to prevent the driver from buying another car. But Spota believes the potential financial setback will give a driver reason to pause if they attempt to leave the scene of an accident.
"I have asked the state legislature to impose more significant criminal penalties, jailtime," said Spota. "This would just further enhance our ability to keep these people off the road."
The family of Erika Hughes, who was killed in 2011 by a hit-and-run driver as she was walking back to her home in Mastic, was at the legislature's meeting Tuesday night when the law was passed. The driver, Preston Mimms, was sentenced to one and one-third to four years in the death of Hughes, but the family of the young mother believed it was not severe enough.
"Obviously, my daughter's not coming back and Mr. Mimms won't have his sentence changed, but anything I can do to prevent this from happening to someone else, it's worth it," said Dennis Hughes, Erika's father.