In late February, it seemed like the entire town of South Windsor was in Rockville Superior Court, seeking justice for a beloved public servant and member of the community.
On February 23, Spencer Kraus of Ellington was sentenced to 11 years in prison for his role in the death of South Windsor Police Officer Benjamin Lovett. In July 2021, Lovett was riding his motorcycle with his girlfriend when Krauss, who was driving drunk, collided into him with his car. Lovett died from his injuries.
Though Kraus has been sentenced for his crime, the community of South Windsor continues to mourn Officer Lovett, whose loved ones knew him as Benny. In addition to his work as a police officer, including recognition by Mothers Against Drunk Driving in his efforts to educate the public about the dangers of driving intoxicated, Lovett was a business owner, and his friends and family said he was always full of life, always working and always willing to help others.
It’s with this knowledge that, after speaking with Benny’s loved ones, I introduced Senate Bill 31, “An Act Protecting The Public From DUI Offenders,” which is currently under consideration by the Judiciary Committee. This bill seeks to honor his memory by working to strengthen penalties for drunk drivers, seeking to prevent anyone from experiencing what Benny’s friends and family have experienced. In light of his tragic death, especially as it was caused by the very thing he fought to prevent, this bill’s passage would make Connecticut roadways safer and ensure drunk driving is treated with the severity it needs.
The bill in question would revoke bail in the case of any offender driving under the influence if a victim of their crime dies from injuries sustained in a crash; treat second offenses for drunk driving as a premeditated action, with enhanced penalties and reduced opportunities for early release; and ensure that if a repeat offender is involved in the death of a victim, they can be charged with first-degree manslaughter, which holds a prison sentence of up to 20 years for someone convicted of that crime.
This legislation is focused specifically on repeat offenders and intoxicated drivers who cause the deaths of others in an effort to dissuade others from driving intoxicated. There is valuable precedent in this; according to a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, there is a correlation between increasingly harsh punishments for drunk driving and a decrease in recidivism for drunk driving.
This bill is not meant to make more stringent laws that increase the odds that anyone will be arrested and charged; it is limited to instances of repeat offense (roughly 29% of drivers who receive DUIs will offend again) and of serious bodily harm as result of intoxicated driving. That narrowed view focuses on the most serious offenses.
It’s hoped that with knowledge of these more stringent and harsh punishments, this bill would help to reduce the rate of intoxicated driving on roadways. While DUI arrests and charges are already harmful to many drivers, with potential of incarceration, fines and suspended licenses, there are still many who will offend again. By increasing awareness about the severity of drunk driving, not only in the potential consequences that could befall others but in these strengthened punishments for harm and reoffense, Connecticut could find ways to make its roadways safer.
I plan to continue promoting Benny’s Law this year in honor of Officer Lovett and his loved ones and hope to see it become law. We can honor his memory for years to come by fighting to support a cause he dedicated himself to and prevent future tragedies on Connecticut roadways.