Drunk drivers are getting a free ride in New York City.
Nearly half of all drinking-and-driving offenses in Manhattan were tossed out of court last year – as dismissal rates soared over five times higher than they were before state lawmakers enacted a controversial evidence reform law in 2020, records show.
Of the 262 drunk-driving cases handled by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office in 2022, 128 – or 49%—were dismissed on technicalities or for other reasons.
In 2019, the office, then led by Cy Vance, handled more than double the amount of DWI and other drunk-driving cases, yet only 55 — or 9% — of the 589 were tossed.
Critics blamed the startling statistics on the new “discovery” law overwhelming New York’s criminal justice system – which even the soft-on-crime Bragg concedes is a huge problem for prosecuting traffic offenses.
“This data makes clear that discovery is burying our prosecutors in paperwork that is often unrelated to the underlying substance of the case,” Bragg told The Post.
Prosecutors are now required to turn over all evidence related to alleged felonies and misdemeanors within just 15 days of arraignments for traffic infractions and other petty offenses, and within 20 to 35 days for many other crimes.
Previously, state law only required discovery if the defense requested it in writing — and there was no rigid time frame.
The new rules have wreaked havoc throughout the five boroughs when it comes to DWI and other traffic-related prosecutions, according to multiple law-enforcement sources and records.
Some prosecutors even said they’re offering plea deals at an unprecedented pace to avoid having cases dismissed.
Mohamed Taher Hassan — whose father Taher Ali Hassan, 63, was killed in December 2020 by a driver on the Belt Parkway in Queens traveling at nearly double the speed limit while high on booze and cocaine — said his family “didn’t see the full justice it was expecting” because of the new discovery law.
Instead, Jason Bical of Brooklyn copped a plea deal with Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz’s office and was sentenced in December to 5 to 15 years behind bars on an aggravated vehicular manslaughter conviction in the death of the elder Hassan.
“Action must be taken to prevent all this from happening, or at a bare minimum, to put laws where they were, which was then much easier for prosecutors to act,” said Mohamed Hassan, who praised prosecutors’ work in the case.
“They’re handcuffed by the new laws, and to them, it makes them not want to do these types of cases.”
Thirty-one percent of all traffic infractions in Queens were tossed out of court last year, compared to 17% in 2019, while the traffic-felony dismissal rate surged ninefold over the same period, from 2% to 18%.
The Queens DA’s Office couldn’t immediately provide data on drunk-driving offenses.
In Manhattan, the dismissal rate for all traffic offenses rose from 18% in 2019 to 44% the following year, when the new discovery requirements went into effect.
In 2022 — which was Bragg’s first year as DA — the rate reached 51%.
Manhattan’s traffic-felony dismissal rate — which includes drunk driving offenses — also rose over the four-year period, from 6% to 15%
Since 2019 on Staten Island, 263 traffic cases have been tossed as the overall dismissal rate there has remained steady over that period at about 3% to 4%.
District Attorney Michael McMahon’s office said the new regulations have reluctantly forced its prosecutors to put extra emphasis on getting rogue drivers to cop pleas to reduced crimes in order to avoid having cases tossed altogether.
McMahon, a moderate Democrat, told The Post he’s “tremendously proud” of his office’s “low” dismissal rate, but believes the discovery law needs a complete overhaul.
“My dedicated prosecutors are successful despite the crazy and nonsensical discovery burdens placed on us by Albany,” he said. “Without question, it has made the work of holding these offenders fully accountable more challenging and unless necessary changes are made, will soon border on impossible.
“I guess that is what our Albany leaders want: mayhem and death on the roads, crime, and chaos on every corner, and complete freedom for the career criminals. They should be careful what they wish for. If not for heroic cops and persistent prosecutors, they will get it.”
The Brooklyn and Bronx District Attorneys’ Offices refused to immediately provide dismissal rates for traffic offenses.
Bragg — who once championed the evidence reform law — said he hopes to “continue to work” with his fellow progressive Democratic “partners” in the state Legislature “to find commonsense solutions that preserve the intent of the new law while ensuring we can achieve appropriate accountability in all our cases.”
The discovery law was part of a larger legislative package approved by lefty state pols that included bail reform — which Bragg continues to support — and which is widely blamed for fueling crime by putting suspected bad guys back on the streets.
Bragg contends his hands are tied, but some of his biggest critics are not buying his excuses for why so many drunk-driving offenses are getting tossed — given what they describe as his long history of catering to criminals, and other far-left causes.
“Bragg is either lazy or this is the result of the discovery law,” said City Council Minority Leader Joseph Borelli (R-Staten Island). “I suspect that it’s a combination of the two, and that combination is letting drunk drivers booze and cruise with impunity.”