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Mar 30, 2023

"Angelica's Law," designed to crack down on suspended license driving, nears passage in Albany

By Carolyn Gusoff June 6, 2023 / 6:27 PM

By Carolyn Gusoff

June 6, 2023 / 6:27 PM / CBS New York

MEDFORD, N.Y. -- A Long Island mother who never gave up the fight for a law in her daughter's memory is approaching the finish line.

"Angelica's Law" would make it a felony to drive in New York state with five or more license suspensions.

Dawn Nappi is heading to Albany on Wednesday for its likely passage.

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It has been 15 years since Nappi's daughter, Angelica, perished in a crash with a driver who blew through a red light after his license had been suspended seven times.

"There was a slap on the wrist consequence for the offender," Nappi said.

He was jailed for just four months. Nappi lobbied for harsher consequences for those who drive after repeated license suspensions. Angelica's Law will make it a felony to drive with five or more, instead of the current 10.

However, there have been roadblocks. The legislation has been introduced in Albany repeatedly, but has never passed.

"The fact this has taken 15 years blows my mind because no one should be driving with a suspension, period," Nappi said.

Opponents didn't want suspensions included that drivers can rack up for financial reasons, like failure to pay taxes or child support.

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But lawmakers have seen ironed out their differences. Angelica's Law passed the Assembly unanimously last week. Nappi was invited to attend what she hopes will be it passage in the Senate.

"She's a grieving mom. So many years later she is finally getting to witness this bill pass and it's being named after her daughter," said state Sen. Kevin Thomas, a Democrat who represents Garden City.

"The difference in the bill was focusing the legislation on those violations of the vehicle and traffic law that really went to public safety," added Assemblyman Fred Thiele, a Democrat representing Sag Harbor.

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In the end, a bipartisan effort appears to have gotten the job done. Its first champion was Patchogue Republican Sen. Dean Murray.

"Personally, I would like to see it lower than five, but we will take what we can get. The art of compromise, I guess, at work, but the goal is to just keep people safe," Murray said. "The irony is if Angelica's Law had been in place at the time of the accident, Angelica would be with us today because Steve Catalano would have been in jail at that time."

"I have so much excitement, but I'm trying to curtail it until I know it is signed, sealed and delivered," Nappi said. "I have a sense of peace. I feel like my daughter's death is not going to be in vain."

It's too soon to celebrate, however, as the bill also needs the signature of Gov. Kathy Hochul, whose spokesman says will review the legislation.

Nappi is asking Hochul to greenlight what she calls a long-overdue lifesaving change.

CBS2 reached out to the attorney who represented Catalano, but he declined comment. The vote on the Senate floor in Albany is expected Wednesday afternoon.

Carolyn Gusoff has covered some of the most high profile news stories in the New York City area and is best known as a trusted, tenacious, consistent and caring voice of Long Island's concerns.

First published on June 6, 2023 / 6:27 PM

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