New York Leandra’s Law
A person charged with Leandra’s Law, Aggravated DWI – Child in Car; is alleged to have committed a DWI, DWAI Drugs, or DWAI Combined influence AND they are alleged to have done so while having a passenger in their vehicle who is 15 years old or less. This charge, even if it is a first offense, constitutes a felony. Sentences for someone convicted of this crime can vary depending on many different factors. Sentencing may include any combination of the following: a mandatory installation an ignition interlock device; a mandatory minimum of 1 year license revocation; a fine between $1,000 and $10,000; a court mandated surcharge; a 5 year term of probation, and/or up to a 7 years in State Prison.
Many District Attorneys’ Offices across New York State have plea bargaining policies which prohibit the reduction of any or most Aggravated DWI charges. Because of these policies, it is important to have counsel who is well versed in topics commonly litigated in DWI cases such as the traffic stop that resulted in the DWI charge, the proper or improper administration of field sobriety tests, chemical blood and breathe tests, and more.
Experienced counsel who are trained in these matters are able to identify potential “problems” that may exist in a case. This knowledge is vital when negotiating with prosecutors who are reluctant to diverge from established reduction policies or, if necessary, effectively represent clients at trials.
New Bill Strengthens Leandra’s Law
In a press release issued by the office of New York State Senator Charles Fuschillo, it was announced that a new law has passed which strengthens the provision of Leandra’s Law requiring the installation of ignition interlock devices on the cars of DWI offenders in New York. Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the new law this month which is designed to close a loophole in the current ignition interlock law. Under the new law, DWI offenders who claim not to own a motor vehicle will be required to assert this fact in open court under oath. When a DWI offender asserts that they do not own a motor vehicle under oath, they must also assert that they will not drive at all during the period of the interlock restriction. If a DWI offender is found to have lied under oath about not owning a motor vehicle, the offender will be subject to additional criminal charges.
The new law raises the minimum amount of time that DWI offenders who do not install an ignition interlock device must wait before they can get their driver’s licenses reinstated from 6 months to 1 year. If an offender installs the interlock device, a judge can exercise his discretion and remove the interlock restriction in 6 months if the offender demonstrates that they have installed and maintained the device during that time period. It is believed that giving DWI offenders the chance to get their driver’s licenses back sooner will give them an incentive to use the devices.
The new law will also raise the penalty for driving drunk with a conditional license to a class E felony, which is punishable by a prison sentence of up to 4 years. This will make the penalty for DWI with a conditional license fall in line with the current penalties for DWI with a suspended or revoked license. The new law also clarifies a portion of Leandra’s Law that applies to youthful offenders under the age of 18 and mandates that they be subject to the same ignition interlock rules as older drivers.
Background Information about Leandra’s Law
Leandra’s Law was enacted in 2009 and made it a felony in New York to drive drunk with a child under age 16 in the car and required the installation of an ignition interlock device on the cars of all persons convicted of DWI. The New York State Legislature enacted the law in response to the death of 11-year old Leandra Rosado in an alcohol-related crash on the Henry Hudson Parkway.
Previously, out of concern that DWI offenders in New York who were sentenced under the law attempted to circumvent it by claiming they did not own a vehicle or had sold or transferred ownership to their vehicles, lawmakers began requiring that DWI offenders claiming to not own a vehicle wear a continuous alcohol monitoring device in lieu of using an ignition interlock device. The goal of this requirement was to stop DWI offenders from falsely reporting the sales of their vehicles or transfers of titles to the District Attorney’s Office.
Traditionally, ignition interlock devices have been used to deter repeat DWI offenders. However, recently ignition interlock laws have been used as a means of behavior modification treatment for first-time offenders. It is believed that many first-time DWI offenders do not have alcohol-dependency problems and therefore the deterrent effect of the ignition interlock device is high for these offenders.
Problems with Ignition Interlock Devices
There have been many reports about problems with ignition interlock devices. DWI offenders have reported numerous cases of false positive alcohol readings which were triggered by either contamination or malfunction. A false positive reading means the ignition interlock device shows a positive reading when there is no alcohol present. False positive readings on ignition interlock devices have been due to: the use of sugarless gum (which contains sorbitol), mouthwash, toothpaste, cough syrup, cough drops, and hand sanitizer (which contain alcohol), antifreeze (which contains glycol), windshield washer fluid (which contains alcohol to prevent it from freezing and may get sucked into the passenger compartment by a car’s defroster; the driver afterwards may unknowingly inhale the vapors upon breathing into the ignition interlock device).
To avoid getting a false positive reading from an ignition interlock device, all DWI offenders are advised to rinse their mouths with water before they blow into the device. Most manufacturers of ignition interlock devices provide instructions to do such on their contracts provided when the devices are installed.
Not a Rarity Around New York State
Recent reports around New York indicate that DWI charges under New York’s Leandra’s Law are not few and far between. The DWI law was established to address the dangerous conduct of driving drunk with children in the car, after a tragic DWI accident involving an 11-year-old girl named Leandra. The law establishes that a driver may be charged with a class “E” felony of Aggravated DWI if he or she drives while intoxicated with a child under the age of 16-years-old.
The first report, out of Staten Island, involved a mother and her four-year-old son. SILive.com reports that 35-year-old Marina Kozyrev was allegedly driving with her husband and young son in her vehicle on Sunday around noon, when she is claimed to have crashed the vehicle at a street corner. Ms. Kozyrev alleged that she only drank two beers before the accident, but her blood alcohol level allegedly measured .165 percent, which is more than two times the legal limit of 0.08%. Ms. Kozyrev was charged with driving while intoxicated and endangering the welfare of a child, and aggravated driving while intoxicated under New York’s Leandra’s Law.
The second report involves a man from Suffolk County. LongIsland.com reports that Jose E. Amaya was allegedly driving on Montauk Highway in an erratic manner when law enforcement officers spotted him. Officers then pulled him over for swerving and, during the stop, claim that there was a child in Mr. Amaya’s car, sleeping in a booster seat. The boy was Amaya’s five-year-old son. Mr. Amaya apparently had prior DWI charges, and was ultimately charged with Operating a Vehicle without an Ignition Interlock, False Personation, Criminal Contempt, traffic violations, and, under Leandra’s Law, Endangering the Welfare of a Child, Felony DWI with a Prior DWI Conviction, and other charges.
Leandra’s Law charges are serious, and raise the sensitive and tragic issue of driving with small children in a motor vehicle. The reality, however, is that DWI charges under Leandra’s Law can—and do—happen to drivers, and when a driver is charged, he or she needs to be ready to defend him or herself.
The attorneys at Nave DWI Defense Attorneys have experience dealing with sensitive cases involving DWI with children in the vehicle. In the case of People v. C.S., an Nave DWI Defense Attorneys client was indicted on two counts of Felony Aggravated DWI for DWI with a child in the vehicle, misdemeanor Endangering the Welfare of a Child, and speeding. The DA’s office had a no plea deal policy, and the client was forced to go to trial, facing 1 and 1/3 to 4 years jail time. However, Nave DWI Defense Attorneys attorneys were able to find critical flaws in the case, and were ultimately able to secure a verdict of not guilty on two of the two felony charges and misdemeanor charge. Instead, the client was convicted of DWAI and speeding, which carried a sentence of fines and one year conditional discharge, but no jail time.
Additional Case Information
Leandra’s Law was enacted in New York in 2009 in response to the death of 11 year-year old Leandra Rosado, who was killed on the Henry Hudson Parkway in Manhattan while riding in a car driven by her friend’s intoxicated mother. Leandra’s Law created a new class E felony for defendants convicted of driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DWI) with a child passenger in the vehicle and resulted in the requirement that all convicted DWI offenders—including first-time offenders—install alcohol ignition interlocks in their vehicles. Leandra’s Law makes it a felony, punishable by up to four years in prison, to drive drunk with a passenger younger than 16 years of age.
In New York, before the passage of Leandra‘s Law, alcohol ignition interlocks were mandated only for those convicted of Aggravated Driving While Intoxicated (which requires a 0.18 BAC and over) and who also had been given probation as a condition of their sentence. By treating first-time DWI offenders the same as repeat offenders, Leandra‘s Law made it clear that in the state of New York there is a zero-tolerance policy for drunk driving. The passage of Leandra’s Law made New York State one of 10 mandatory first-offender ignition interlock states. Under Leandra’s Law:
(1) Courts must order all drivers convicted of misdemeanor and felony drunk driving charges – even first-time offenders and regardless of whether a child under 16 was in the vehicle at the time – to install and maintain ignition interlock devices at their own expense on any vehicles they own or operate for a minimum of six months, in addition to any other terms of sentence.
(2) Interlocks can be ordered for a maximum of three years for a misdemeanor conviction and five years for a felony conviction.
(3) Driving a vehicle without an interlock device after one has been ordered is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail.
An ignition interlock is a device that cuts off the ignition unless the driver first breathes into a handheld device and it registers that the driver has a low blood-alcohol level, according to a preset limit. These devices are usually installed and monitored by authorized private companies with governmental supervision, at the driver’s expense.
Various safeguards are built into the devices so as to avoid clever attempts to bypass ignition locks or automatic shutoffs. For example, the device may require retesting at intervals, and if the driver does not comply, the horn will start beeping continually. This is designed to deter drinking after completing a sober start, to prevent a sober individual from starting the vehicle and then allowing the drunk driver to take over the wheel, and to forestall letting the vehicle idle at bars while the sober driver quickly gets drunk.
Courts considering the constitutionality of Leandra’s Law have generally upheld the legislation. In People v. Pedrick, the court found that a statute requiring the defendant, who had been convicted of driving while intoxicated, to pay for the cost of installing an ignition interlock device, absent court determination that defendant is unable to do so, did not violate the defendant’s due process or equal protection rights because the cost of the interlock was not set by statute. The court concluded that there were adequate mechanisms in place to determine whether a particular defendant had the ability to bear cost of installing an ignition interlock, and for a defendant to obtain post-sentencing modification of an order to pay for the cost of installing an ignition interlock.
In Alexander v. Com., Dept. of Transportation, the court considered a case where a state licensing department suspended a motorist’s driver’s license based on the motorist’s third conviction for driving under the influence and notified the motorist that he had to have an ignition interlock device installed on vehicles owned by him as a condition of the reinstatement of the motorist’s driver’s license. The court upheld the validity of the statute requiring the interlock device even though it addressed two DWI convictions that had been committed prior to the enactment of the statute. The court held that the statute in question was not unlawfully retroactive.
Drivers Allegedly in Violation of New York’s Leandra’s Law
Two recent incidents relating to DWI charges under New York’s Leandra’s Law occurred over the last weekend, likely reinforcing the government’s interest in cracking down on drunk drivers who drive with child passengers. Leandra’s Law is a DWI law that enhances penalties and sentencing for child endangerment due to drunk driving, the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services website explains.
Leandra’s Law was named after an 11-year-old girl named Leandra Rosada, who was killed by a drunk driver in October of 2009. The driver was her friend’s mother, who was driving Leandra and her friends when she crashed the car in Manhattan. Everyone survived the accident, except for Leandra. The driver of the vehicle faces a manslaughter charge, and Leandra’s father promoted Leandra’s Law to impose stricter punishment on drivers under the influence with child passengers.
Leandra’s Law has been in effect since winter of 2009. There are many provisions under the law that relate to increased penalties for DWI charges, but most notably it imposes a Class E felony charge, punishable by up to four years in jail, on first time DWI offenders driving with a child under 16-years-old in the vehicle. Furthermore, under the law, ignition interlock devices are mandatory for convicts for at least six months. If an intoxicated or impaired driver causes the death of a child in the vehicle that is under the age of 16-years-old, the driver may be charged with a Class B felony and sentenced to up to 25 years in prison.
Two New York drivers this week may be subject to the provisions of Leandra’s Law after allegedly violating DWI laws with young children in their vehicles. The first story, reported by NBC New York, occurred on Long Island, a 42-year-old driver was allegedly weaving his vehicle when law enforcement officers stopped him. There were allegedly three children in his car, two 11-year-olds and one 14-year-old. There were also four adult passengers in the vehicle. He was charged with child endangerment, DWI, and aggravated DWI with a child passenger under Leandra’s Law.
The second incident also occurred on Long Island. My Fox NY reports that last Friday evening, a local man was driving with his 6-year-old daughter when he allegedly caused a three-vehicle accident on Long Island. He was driving a pick-up truck and hit the back of an SUV. The SUV then hit another SUV. No one was injured in the accident, but his vehicle was impounded. A law enforcement officer responding to the accident allegedly noticed that he was under the influence of alcohol. He was subsequently charged with aggravated DWI with a child passenger, under Leandra’s Law, DWI, and child endangerment.
51 Year Old Rochester Man Facing DWI Charges
A 51-year-old Rochester man, is facing felony driving while intoxicated charges under Leandra’s Law after police say he was driving under the influence with his five-year-old son in the car.
On Sunday, Police were called to the 2300 block of Culver Road in Irondequoit. The suspect gave a breath sample which showed a blood alcohol content of 0.20% which is nearly 3 times the legal limit of 0.08%. He was summoned to Irondequoit Town Court on 25th of September.
“Leandra’s Law” is a New York state law that makes a driver’s first drunk driving crime an automatic felony if a child under the age of 16 years was present inside the vehicle at the time of the offense. The Law was passed unanimously by the New York State Assembly and State Senate. It was signed into the law on 18th of November 2009 by Gov. David Paterson.
Leandra’s Law is named after 11 year old Leandra Rosado who died in a drunk driving accident in October 2009 when the adult driving her and her friends crashed the car on the Henry Hudson Parkway in NYC. The driver was taken into custody for driving while intoxicated. After that a horrific “Taconic Crash” occurred in which eight individuals were killed, four of them were children.
Leandra’s father, Mr. Rosado collaborated with MADD, Senator Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr., Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg and the Governor to pass this legislation on child endangerment and ignition interlocks. As a result, “Leandra’s Law” raises the offense of driving under the influence with a child in the vehicle to a Class E felony punishable by up to four years in jail. If the child is injured, seven years in jail and if killed, up to twenty five years in jail. It also made the installation of ignition interlocks mandatory in cars of all convicted DWI offenders for a minimum of six months. If any driver is convicted under the law, he/she automatically has his/her driver’s license revoked.
Parents seen driving under the influence of an intoxicant with their children present in the car are reported to New York’s statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment.
Mothers Against Drunk Driving Long Island has created a wallet size card explaining Leandra’s Law in the hope that if individuals know about the greatly increased consequences of driving while intoxicated, it will discourage them from getting behind the wheel after drinking.”Please don’t drink and drive. Plan ahead: designate a sober driver; call a cab or a friend, or just stay where you are. No matter what, don’t get behind the wheel. The consequences are just too terrible”.
The exclusive purpose of this article is educational and it is not intended as either legal advice or a general solution to any specific legal problem. Corporate offices for Nave DWI Defense Attorneys are located at 432 N. Franklin Street, Suite 80, Syracuse, NY 13204; Telephone No.: 1-866-792-7800. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Attorney Advertising.