Leandra’s Law seeks increased penalties for DWI offenders

New Yorker's know that driving while under the influence is risky and dangerous. There is no question this risk increases when the activity is done with a child passenger in the car.

New York is one of 36 states with child endangerment laws. These laws impose harsher penalties on individuals who place a child passenger at risk because they are driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Leandra's Law

The Child Passenger Protection Act, or Leandra's Law, has been in effect since December of 2009. The law is named in honor of an 11 year-old child who was killed when an SUV she was riding in crashed on the Henry Hudson Parkway in 2009.

The law was encouraged by the father of the child, who hopes it will prevent others from acting in the same manner in the future. The mother who was driving the SUV was under the influence at the time and is currently facing DWI manslaughter charges.

Penalties for DWI Convictions

Under the law, first time offenders who are convicted of

The penalties are higher if the driver causes physical injury or death to the child. In these cases, prison sentences between 15 and 25 years may be imposed. Additionally, drivers who are found with a blood alcohol level higher than the legal limit of .08 with a child in the car automatically have their driver's license suspended while the matter is pending.

There are also additional consequences. Parents, guardians, or anyone legally responsible for children who are charged under the law are automatically reported to the Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment.

The law has recently faced criticism for a loophole in the ignition interlock requirement. Those convicted under the law are transferring the vehicle registration to a friend or family member or simply not driving for 6 months after the conviction.

Enforcement efforts have been relatively successful. There were approximately 311 arrests under Leandra's Law reported within the first six months of the law's enactment. Additionally, arrests were reported in 51 out of 62 total state counties.

Consequences of DWI Charges and Convictions

Even one DWI can produce permanent and devastating consequences. Leandra's Law increases the severity of these consequences. One DWI with a child in the car can now result in long term prison sentences and a label as a child abuser.

It is necessary that an individual facing charges under Leandra's Law understands their rights and the necessary steps available to mitigate consequences. An experienced DWI attorney can assist with defending these rights and constructing a skilled defense.