Leandra’s Law increases some New York DWI penalties

Since 2009, New York has been one of 36 states in the U.S. to enforce harsher penalties for those convicted of driving while intoxicated when a child is a passenger in the vehicle. New York drivers should be aware of the provisions of the Child Passenger Protection Act, more commonly called Leandra's Law.

Stiffer penalties

As a result of Leandra's Law, a person convicted of a first DWI offense faces a Class E felony if a child under 16 years old was a passenger in the vehicle. Normally a first DWI conviction is a misdemeanor in New York. A Class E felony could result in a prison sentence of up to four years. A person also automatically loses his or her driver's license while being prosecuted.

If a driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs and causes an injury to a child under 16 years old, he or she could be charged with a Class C felony and face up to 15 years in prison. A person who causes the death of a child under 16 years old while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs could be charged with a Class B felony, resulting in a prison sentence of up to 35 years.

Ignition interlock requirements

A final provision of Leandra's Law, which went into effect August 15, 2010, mandates that each driver convicted of a DWI offense install an ignition interlock device on any vehicle he or she drives for six months, in addition to any other penalties the court imposes. The ignition interlock requirement applies to all drivers convicted of DWI, not just those who had passengers under 16 years old in the vehicle with them.

After Leandra's Law went into effect, New York became one of 10 states requiring first-time DWI offenders to use ignition interlock.

Ignition interlock devices can be very costly, and those convicted of DWI must maintain the devices at their own expense. Installation of an ignition interlock device can cost between $75 and $100, and the monthly operating fee runs between $70 and $100. A person who drives a vehicle without an ignition interlock device after having been ordered by the court to use one runs the risk of being convicted of a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to one year in jail.

Talk to a lawyer

New York authorities take drinking and driving offenses very seriously, as the stiff penalties allowed under Leandra's Law demonstrate. They will not hesitate to prosecute such cases to the fullest extent possible. If you are facing DWI charges, speak with an experienced DWI defense attorney who can help defend your rights.