New York Governor Cuomo announced last week that the State is strengthening the penalties for DWI convictions in Leandra’s Law cases, among other revisions. Leandra’s Law was named for 11 year old Leandra Rosado, who was killed in a crash when the driver taking her to a birthday party was intoxicated, lost control of her car, and the car flipped over. In December of 2009, Leandra’s Law went into effect, with two main provisions. First, the law made it a felony to drive while intoxicated with a child under the age of 16 in the vehicle. Second, any DWI conviction or plea of guilty would result in the requirement to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in any vehicle which the defendant owns or operates.
However, since the promulgation of Leandra’s Law four years ago, many of those convicted have been subverting the IID requirement by transferring ownership of their vehicle(s) to other drivers while serving their sentences.
Effective November 1, 2013, the law is amended as follows:
1. There are now more restrictions as to the circumstances in which a Court can waive the installation of an interlock device, and the defendant must now swear under oath that he or she does not own, operate, or have access to a motor vehicle and will not drive a car unless it is equipped with the device and he or she is otherwise eligible to drive.
2. The IID is now to be installed prior to sentencing, in contrast to the present law under which a defendant can operate a vehicle without the device until after sentencing.
3. The minimum period of interlock installation is increased from six months to one year (although in practice this is not a change with most Courts requiring one year presently).
4. It will now be a felony to get a DWI while driving with a conditional license, rather than a traffic infraction.
5. Youthful offenders will now be governed by the same IID requirement as adult drivers.
Since Leandra’s Law went into effect in 2009, more than 3,300 drivers have been arrested under the statute. As of June of 2013, more than 14,000 drivers have been required to have interlock devices in their cars thought New York State.