Lawmakers and families of hit-and-run victims demand stricter penalties

‘Nick’s Law’ would make committing a hit-and-run a minimum prison sentence


State Sen. Dean Murray joined legislators in urging the state legislature to pass “Nick’s Law” at a press conference outside the Hagerman Fire Department on June 21, one week after the department lost 22-year-old volunteer firefighter Christopher Hlavaty to a hit-and-run.

The bill, named after 25-year-old Nick Puzio, who died in a hit-and-run while crossing Medford Avenue in Patchogue in March 2023, would make the penalty for fleeing the scene of an accident resulting in death a Class B felony, raise the fine of no more than $5,000 to a fine of $30,000, and set a minimum prison sentence of 10 to 15 years.

“It seems like every other day we are seeing another news report about another hit-and-run accident,” Murray said. “Another person left behind to die. It is becoming almost an epidemic, a deadly epidemic.”

Sponsors of the bill hope that if passed, the stricter punishments will prevent drivers involved in accidents from fleeing the scene because they fear getting caught, especially if they’re drunk, high, or otherwise impaired.

“When you strike someone, even if you think it’s a deer or a dog, you need to stop,” co-sponsor assemblyman Ed Flood said. “It’s a common-sense fix.”

The bill was introduced last year in the state Senate as Bill S6051 by Sen. Murray and in the state Assembly as Bill A6520 by assemblyman Doug Smith, and remains in committee in both chambers.

Murray urged the passing of “Nick’s Law” and said he’s making the bill his priority if the state legislature goes back into session in the coming weeks.

Hagerman fire chief Timmy Dunham also expressed the department’s grief for firefighter Christopher Hlavaty and said hit-and-run victims are more likely to survive if drivers stay and call the police.

“We lost an incredible young man; we lost our brother, Chris,” Dunham said. “In the fire, EMS, and any emergency service, every second does count.”

Before finishing the press conference, Murray introduced Hlavaty’s mother Janine, who spoke about putting partisan differences aside for the bill.

“Please, don’t make this political; this is about people’s lives in New York. I don’t want anybody ever to have to go through the pain that we’ve been through,” Hlavaty said. “This needs to be passed. And just maybe they’ll save other families from going through this horrific nightmare.”