At the end of October, The Journal News reported on the fact that the DWI laws in New York are being updated to impose tougher penalties for those who are caught driving drunk in Westchester County and statewide. Specifically, a DWI law commonly referred to as "Leandra's Law" is being beefed up with a harsher possible sentence for a conviction for driving while intoxicated with a child in the vehicle. Leandra's Law is named in honor of an 11-year-old girl who was killed in a DWI accident while riding in a vehicle driven by a friend's mother, who was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the crash. Under Leandra's Law, it is a felony to commit a DWI while driving with a passenger aged 15 or younger. A conviction for a violation under Leandra's Law has been punishable by a fine of between $1,000 and $5,000, as well as a possible prison sentence of up to 4 years.
With the recent addition to Leandra's Law, a driver convicted of DWI with a minor passenger may now also be ordered to install and use an ignition interlock device (IID). The IID is a piece of equipment which is hardwired into a vehicle's ignition system, and it acts as a deterrent to drunk driving as well as a method of detecting probation violations. Before the driver can start the vehicle, he or she will be required to provide a breath sample into the device, and if the test demonstrates that the person's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is above a determined level, the vehicle will be immobilized and the test record will be reported to the authorities. An IID will also normally require that the drive pass "rolling tests" at random intervals while driving. When a driver fails a rolling test, the device causes the vehicle's lights to flash and the horn to honk to attract the attention of law enforcement.
Until now, drivers convicted under Leandra's Law have been able to skirt requirements to install an IID by temporarily transferring ownership of their vehicle to another person, such as a friend. With the recent change, it will now be necessary for the driver to swear under oath that he or she does not own a vehicle and will not be driving in order to avoid the requirement to pay for IID installation and maintenance. In the event that the person is caught driving in violation of this, he or she may be charged with an additional offense.
Westchester County DWI attorney Robert Schuster weighed in on the recent update to Leandra's Law:
Prosecutors in Westchester have always been very thorough and careful to engage defendants in allocutions at the time of sentencing regarding their ownership and access to vehicles; so this change may be more significant in other jurisdictions where the allocutions have been less thorough. This new addition to the law removes a defendant's ability to transfer ownership to avoid the interlock and makes sense in the event that access to vehicles is not adequately addressed or monitored. I have always made it clear to my clients that are required to utilize the interlock device that simply having access to the vehicle, irrespective of ownership, will require the device and that they will be asked about this access at the time of sentencing and must respond truthfully.
To learn more about Leandra's Law and how it may come into play in your own case after an arrest for DWI, contact The Law Offices of Robert Schuster now for an initial consultation.