Kathleen Rice, district attorney in Nassau County, N.Y., on Long Island, cannot understand why so many people — more than 4,100 arrested in her area last year — turn the ignition after having a few drinks, reports the Associated Press. One-third have been caught before. Rice has launched an aggressive assault on drunken driving in one of the nation’s busiest traffic corridors. She does not allow plea deals in DWI cases. She put a man on trial for murder in a horrific crash. She plans to slap alcohol-sensors on the ankles of admitted alcoholics. Defense attorneys complain that her approach leaves little leeway for judicial discretion.
There were 26 people killed in drunken-driving crashes last year in Nassau County, which is adjacent to New York City. When she ran against 31-year incumbent Denis Dillon last year, Rice hammered away at what she said was her opponent’s propensity for allowing defendants to plea bargain. She discovered that more than one-third of all the pending DWI cases involved repeat offenders. “I almost fell to the floor when I saw that,” the former federal prosecutor said. “It was clear to me that there was no deterrent message. The message was you can do this as many times as you want and you’re always going to be given the option to plead out to the equivalent of a traffic infraction.”