With the arrival of summer and longer daylight hours, families go to more parties and events. Motorists are charged with more DWIs in the summer, especially on the major summer holiday weekends – Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day. For the quarter-century that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been tracking car crash statistics, the Fourth of July has repeatedly ranked as the deadliest holiday of the year for alcohol-related car crashes. Approximately 50% of all fatal car crashes on the Fourth of July are related to alcohol. As the Fourth of July – the hallmark event of summer – approaches, the implications of the new DWI laws, particularly Leandra’s Law, will become even more evident.
The summer of 2011 will mark the first full summer that any driver convicted in New York of driving while intoxicated with a child younger than 16 years old in the vehicle will face penalties under the fully implemented Leandra’s Law, more formally known as the Child Passenger Protection Act (CPPA). New York is one of 36 states with special child endangerment laws that impose tougher sanctions on drivers who are driving with a child passenger while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The CPPA, first went into effect on December 18, 2009, making it a felony to drive while intoxicated with a passenger younger than 16 in the vehicle. The law is named after 11 year old Leandra Rosado, who died when a friend’s mother drove while intoxicated and was involved in a rollover accident. The second part of the CPPA became effective on August 15, 2010, requiring anyone convicted of DWI to drive only vehicles that are equipped with an interlock ignition device (IID), which must be installed and maintained at their own expense on any vehicle they own or operate for at least six months from the time of sentencing (but frequently for at least one year).
An interlock ignition device requires a driver to blow into an alcohol sensor before the car can be started, and requires the driver to provide breath samples at random intervals while driving. The IID includes a camera that takes pictures of the driver, and tracking that provide authorities with real-time information for the vehicle. The total cost for installation, six months of service, and removal can be over $1,000. The costs of the IID is in addition to fines, surcharges and DMV penalties of a DWI conviction. A first-time DWI conviction carries a fine of at least $500, a surcharge of $400.00, loss of a full driver’s license for at least six months, and attendance at the New York State DMV Drinking Driver Program (DDP) and MADD Victim Impact Panel.
It is important to advise all reading this blog that the authorities are aware that some drivers attempt to exploit loopholes in Leandra’s Law by transferring the title to the car, selling the car, or denying ownership, to avoid installing an IID. Further, there have been numerous cases of people tampering with interlock devices, attempting to have someone else blow into the device who is not intoxicated, or renting cars that are not equipped with the IID. In New York, drivers who are found to have either tampered with or in any way failed to comply with the IID requirements of their sentences will face a new Class A misdemeanor charge and up to one year in jail. In addition, anybody who helps a driver circumvent the law by blowing into a device so an intoxicated person can drive also faces a Class A misdemeanor charge if caught. Given the harsh consequences of DWI convictions, it is important that drivers arrested for any drunk driving charge contact an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately.