Weprin bill on staging crashes held up in Albany

Weprin bill on staging crashes held up in Albany
By Phil Corso

Legislation aimed at curbing insurance fraud was put on hold last week as the state Senate failed to pass a bill that would make staging automobile accidents a Class D felony.

State Assemblyman David Weprin (D-Little Neck) said he was still hopeful the bill would pass in the state Senate by the end of the year.

According to Weprin, there were two separate versions of the Alice’s Law bill because of provisions that were made to change the penalty from a Class B felony to a Class D, punishable by up to seven years in prison. The bill, S.1685, was sponsored by Sen. James L. Seward (R-Oneonta) and passed the Senate in March, Weprin said, with the requested revision.

“It is a little frustrating to me, no question about it,” Weprin said. “Had we acted in the Assembly a little earlier, we would have had more time to negotiate with the Senate.”

Alice Ross was 71 when she was killed in a pre-meditated crash, Weprin said. The driver responsible for her death was 25-year-old Waurd Demolaire, of Brooklyn, who was convicted of conspiracy and manslaughter in Queens Supreme Court Feb. 16, 2006.

Police said Demolaire drove his car head-on into Ross, thrusting her car into a tree in front of 82-51 Commonwealth Blvd. in Jamaica. His appeal was denied and he is now serving a 15-year prison sentence .

The bill would amend the current penal law in place and create crime categories for staging motor vehicle accidents in the first, second and third degrees. Incidents would also be classified as Class D felonies if an uninvolved party is injured.

The crime of staging a car accident is classified as a misdemeanor.

“Our organization was borne out of a need to reform the state’s no-fault laws because of victims like Alice Ross, who needlessly lost her life due to this crime,” said David Schwartz, a spokesman for New Yorkers Stand Against Insurance Fraud.

While the Assembly had unanimously passed a revised Weprin-sponsored Alice’s Law June 19, the Senate did not vote on the new bill by session’s end June 21. The legislation will not move any further until next year unless the Senate revisits it in a special session.

“The Assembly’s unanimous passage of the bill was a huge shot in the arm toward getting Alice’s Law enacted,” Weprin said. “We owe it to Alice and all New York drivers to enact this legislation.”

Almost nine years after the 2006 crash, Weprin called on the state Legislature to pass Alice’s Law to save taxpayer dollars.

Reach reporter Phil Corso by e-mail at pcorso@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4573.