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Leandra’s Law – Controversial?

James M Wagman

Leandra’s law, an anti-drunk driving initiative in New York that was signed into law last November, recently went into effect. The law makes it a felony to drive drunk while there is a child in the vehicle.

The law is named for 11-year-old Leandra Rosado. Leandra was killed when the driver of the car that she was riding in lost control of the vehicle. The driver was drunk at the time.

Leandra’s Law has, however, stirred up a fair amount of controversy.

At issue is a provision in Leandra’s law that requires the mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device in all of the vehicles a convicted drunk driver has access to.

The way county legislators read the law, the burden for paying for the devices, and for the staff necessary to ensure the law is complied with, falls to the counties. Counties such as Fulton, Genesee, Schuyler, Steuben and Chemung are pushing back against the law.

Fulton County Board of Supervisors Clerk Jon Stead says that Leandra’s law is on the right track but needs some tweaking. “I think what most of us are saying right now is the law was well intended but it’s not being well implemented.”

Mike Kirkpatrick, the Fulton County Probation Director, agrees. It is his department that is responsible for monitoring each device, including responding to any tampering claims. The probation department will also need to provide testimony about the device in court when it is needed. “Time is money,” Kirkpatrick says. “And that’s where the unfunded mandate comes in. The state has made no provisions to date for payment of this.”

The state disagrees, pointing out that in other states where such laws have gone into effect drunk driving arrests have drastically decreased, offsetting the costs of the program. In addition, there is an expected $3 million grant that will help the counties. However, the grant is not guaranteed. Until the money is available, Fulton County will continue fighting for the law to be changed or postponed.

If you have been ticketed for driving while intoxicated (DWI), please contact an experienced attorney to learn of your defense options.