In an article published in the Daily News recently, it is reported that NYC drivers who have been convicted or pled guilty to a DWI charge are either ignoring or evading the requirement that they install an ignition interlock device (IID) in their vehicles. Under New York’s Leandra’s Law, which was fully implemented in August of 2012, any drivers convicted of, or pleading guilty to a DWI, aggravated DWI or felony DWI in New York State must install an IID in any vehicles they either own or operate. The IID must be maintained in the car for at least six months by the statute; however, in practice, judges are routinely requiring that the device remain in the car for one year. The ignition interlock prevents a driver from starting the car unless they have alcohol free breath, which in actuality means that the level must be at approximately 0.02% or less, because many people have a certain level of breath alcohol naturally, even without drinking any liquor. If the device determines a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of above 0.02%, the vehicle will not start, and if the person is not able to start the vehicle within a few minutes thereafter, a report is generated to the Department of Probation, who monitors and runs the interlock program in each county.
Additionally, Leandra’s Law makes it a felony to drive while intoxicated with a child under the age of 16 in the car. The law was named after Leandra Rosado, an 11 year old girl who was killed in 2009 when the driver of the car she was in, Carmen Huertas, flipped her vehicle on the West Side Highway on the way to driving several girls to a birthday party. Huertas is currently serving a four year jail term as a result of her DWI conviction.
The article notes that only 21% of drivers sentenced on DWI cases have installed the interlock device in their cars, which is less than half of the interlock rate for drivers across New York State of 44%. Since Leandra’s Law went into effect, 2,562 operators In New York have been convicted of or pled guilty to DWI charges requiring the installation of the IID. However, data shows that of that number, only 528 drivers have installed the interlock. According to City officials, many people transfer the title of their car to a friend or relative to avoid the law. Others claim that they have sold or taken their cars off the road. Charles Fuschillo, the Chairman of the State Senate Transportation Committee, who was a co-sponsor of the legislation, noted that the committee is considering new legislation which would require that a driver who had a previous DWI would have to install an IID the next time they registered a car.
If a driver tampers with an IID, attempts to have someone else blow into the device for him or her, or in any way violates the interlock requirements, this is a misdemeanor, with a potential sentence of up to one year in jail and fines.
Those convicted of DWI must install and maintain the IID at their own cost unless they can establish to the satisfaction of the Court through an extensive financial disclosure form that they cannot do so, in which case the local county will pay the expense.