A new proposal has been made to ban smoking with children in the car in Erie County. The resolution, submitted by Legislator Patrick Burke, would prohibit smoking in the car if there are passengers under the age of 16. How the law would be enforced, what the penalties would be, and whether it would apply to e-cigarettes are all issues that are still in question. Civil rights attorney Barry Covert spoke to WGRZ about the proposed law and whether or not it would violate civil liberties. The full story is available on the WGRZ website and the interview is available by watching the video below.
No uniform implementation of law
Mr. Covert told WGRZ that he is surprised that a law to this effect is not already in place in Erie County. “There has not been a uniform implementation of that law nationally or even in New York State,” he explained, although certain counties in the state have implemented a version. “It seems,” Mr. Covert went on, “somebody has thought about it and said that we don’t want to harm the children that are in the vehicle where there is smoking going on.”
Argument for personal responsibility
When asked whether a valid argument against this law could be that smoking with children in the car is a matter of personal responsibility, Mr. Covert answered, “You have children in the car, and that really takes it to the next level.”
“You’re harming others and they’re minors, they have no choice in the matter,” he explained. “We as a society have even said that we’re going to protect you against yourself whether you like it or not. For example, seatbelts.” Mr. Covert explained that seatbelt laws have been put in place for public health and safety concerns and that this proposed law could be treated in much the same way.
Responsibility of the courts
WGRZ asked Mr. Covert where efforts like this should stop. “That’s for the courts to decide, by virtue of our Constitution,” Mr. Covert said, explaining that it is a difficult issue to consider. “These are very difficult decisions that the courts really have to get in the weed and figure out,” he went on. Mr. Covert told WGRZ that, if this law is passed, he believes it will be upheld.
About Barry N. Covert
Mr. Covert is a senior partner in Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria’s Criminal Defense Trials and Appeals Practice Area. He is known for his aggressive representation of clients in the areas of New York State and federal criminal trials and appeals; driving while intoxicated; constitutional law, including First Amendment, civil rights actions, and federal False Claims Act; defending against allegations of scientific misconduct and fraud, research misconduct and fraud, plagiarism, and fabrication of evidence; and professional licensing defense. Mr. Covert frequently provides legal analysis for WGRZ and other media outlets.