HAUPPAUGE - A driver accused of running down a visually impaired man in East Patchogue and leaving him to die was arraigned Wednesday.
Investigators said Ruddy Velasquez-Morales hit and killed 64-year-old Warren Karstendick on April 17.
Officials said surveillance video helped police catch Morales. Morales' attorney says his client was not drunk or on drugs at the time of the crash.
Morales remains out on $150,000 bond. If convicted of fleeing the scene of a fatal accident, he faces up to seven years in prison.
The crash has led Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota to join other officials and residents in demanding the same penalties for hit-and-run drivers as convicted drunken or high drivers.
Speaking in Hauppauge following the arraignment, Spota called on lawmakers to raise felony charges for hit-and-run incidents that cause death or serious injury. The state Senate last year passed a bill that would increase the maximum penalty for such cases to seven to 15 years in prison. The bill now requires approval from the state Assembly Transportation Committee before it can move to the full Assembly.
According to Spota, hit-and-run accidents have increased in Suffolk over the past 10 years. In 2005, he said that seven people were charged with fleeing the scene -- a number that jumped to 24 in 2014. Just four months into 2016, Spota said his office has prosecuted five cases and is investigating three others.