Legislation to increase penalties for those who evade police

The State Troopers PBA is lobbying for legislation that would make it a felony to evade a law enforcement officer. This bill, which is being sponsored in the Senate by Sen. John Bonacic and in the Assembly by Assemblyman Ryan Karben, is extremely important to the safety of not only law enforcement officers, but also the motoring public. Below is an article from The Post-Standard newspaper of Syracuse, which interviewed PBA President Dan De Federicis about the necessity for this legislation.

State police also seek stiffer penalty for people found guilty of evading police.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

By Pam Greene

Staff writer

Since the death of Trooper Craig Todeschini, troopers have vowed to crack down on speeding motorcycles by restarting a program that uses helicopters to track speeders and by lobbying legislators in Albany to create a stricter penalty for those who evade officers.

Trooper Jack Keller said the state police, with the collaboration of five other local law enforcement agencies around the county, are planning to revive Operation Eagle Eye. The program, which began last year, tracks speeders who drive faster than patrol cars can go.

The New York State Trooper Police Benevolent Association will also lobby legislators to pass a law to make it a felony to evade a police officer, said Trooper PBA President Dan De Federicis.

"We want to strengthen the laws to ensure that there’s a proper punishment for those who evade a police officer and put that officer and other civilians in danger," he said.

A bill, introduced to the state Senate March 9, would make someone who evades police guilty of a class B felony, punishable by up to three years in prison. The bill has not been voted on and the troopers’ union plans to highlight Todeschini’s death as a reason to pass the bill, Keller said.

"Right now, there’s nothing on the books if you take off and something specific happens," Keller said. "We need to have something on the books for a case like this."

Several other states – including Florida, Kentucky, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and Texas – have felony police evasion laws. Punishments range from two-year prison terms to decades in prison.

Todeschini was killed Sunday when he crashed while chasing a speeding sport biker.

Since Todeschini’s death, troopers have been reporting incidents of sport bikers taunting them by cruising around, looking for troopers and zooming past, Keller said. Sport bikes are so fast that they cannot be caught by a squad car, he said.

Onondaga County District Attorney William Fitzpatrick on Friday targeted a sport bike riders’ Web site, www.cnystunter.com, saying it gives speeders tips on evading officers. The Web site features a section on radar detectors and a section on how to report complaints about police officers.

Sport bikes – often referred to as "crotch rockets" – are capable of speeds between 150 and 200 mph. They weigh about 400 pounds and have handlebars positioned to keep drivers leaning forward, with their weight on their wrists for optimum speed and maneuverability.

Sport bikes are legal on the street, as long as drivers obey the speed limit. There are four motorcycle racetracks within six hours of Syracuse where riders can safely see how fast their bikes will go, said Adam Viel, president of Syracuse Omen Riding Club. A day on the track costs about $150, he said.

"You don’t need to go 180 mph, just because you’re capable of it," said Viel, who owns a Yamaha sport bike. "The acceleration is three to four times more powerful (than a regular car), but it’s very dangerous to ride it (at full speed) in the open. If you’re going to do that, you have to be willing to accept the consequences."

Dr. John McCabe, chairman of the department of emergency medicine at SUNY Upstate Medical University, said those consequences include death, massive head injuries and mangled limbs. Because sport bikes go faster, drivers are more likely to cause themselves fatal or serious injuries, he said.

Most motorcyclists obey the laws, respect the police and drive safely, Viel said. The few speeders are giving sport bikers a bad reputation, he said.

Viel said the sport biking community is grieving Todeschini’s death. He is planning to organize a memorial ride and fundraiser for the Todeschini family, he said. He said that while he’s glad an arrest was made in the case, he wonders whether the police levied heavy charges against James J. Carncross to make an example of him.

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