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Bill aiding efforts to prosecute drunk driving passed

ALBANY - A law that will allow nurses and emergency medical responders to draw blood for alcohol screening gained final legislative approval Thursday.

Named after local Olympian Jack Shea - who was killed in a car accident in 2002 - the law closes what its proponents see as a loophole in state drunk driving laws.

Previously, only medical doctors could draw blood for analysis.

Warren County District Attorney Kate Hogan, President of the New York State District Attorneys Association, said the measure would help boost public safety.

"This bill closes a loophole that permitted drunk drivers from escaping prosecution," Hogan said. "We now have the ability to present evidence of intoxication that previously was precluded because of an antiquated technicality."

Essex County District Attorney Kristy Sprague said the revision to the law has been a long time coming.

"This is absolutely wonderful. It's been eight years in the making," she said. "Now the statute allows anyone who is duly licensed by the state to draw blood. It takes out that loophole that has caused a lot of injustice throughout the state."

Although the driver who collided with Shea registered a blood alcohol content of .15 - nearly twice the legal limit - the results were thrown out because a doctor was not present for the screening.

Republican State Senator Charles Fuschillo drafted the legislation.

"Legal loopholes should not allow drunk drivers who cause crashes and kill innocent people to escape prosecution," Fuschillo said. "There are numerous licensed health professionals who are fully trained to take blood to determine alcohol content without the presence of a physician."

The bill was co-sponsored by Assemblywoman Teresa Sayward and Janet Duprey and state Senator Betty Little.

It was easily endorsed by the Senate in March.

The bill has been sent to Governor David Paterson for final approval.

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