Photo caption: Senator Fuschillo (right) and Lenny Rosado (left) discuss the need to create felony charges for individuals who drive drunk with a child in the car.
Lenny Rosado, whose 11 year old daughter was killed by her friend’s mother in a DWI crash along the Henry Hudson Parkway last month, today joined with State Senator Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr., Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, and Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg in calling on Governor Paterson to help pass legislation to create felony charges for those who drive drunk with a child in the car.
Under “Leandra’s Law,” individuals who drive drunk with a child in the car would face felony charges that carry a penalty of up to 4 years in jail. These individuals face only misdemeanor charges under current law.
“Drunk drivers who play games with children’s lives need to face felony charges. There have been far too many examples, particularly in recent months, where children are put in danger by the very adult that is responsible for their safety. Most children are too young to call a cab or take away the keys if their parent is driving drunk; they become defenseless hostages. Governor Paterson needs to get fully behind this and help us make ‘Leandra’s Law’ a reality,” said Senator Fuschillo (R-Merrick), who is championing the proposed law in the Senate.
“We need to be doing more to protect our children’s safety. My only daughter was taken away from me. No other family should ever have to go through the pain I feel every single day. Passing this law and making this crime a felony would help stop people from putting children’s lives at risk by driving drunk and ensure that Leandra’s death was not in vain,” said Mr. Rosado, who has already collected approximately 5,000 signatures in support of “Leandra’s Law.”
"Drunk driving ends lives and destroys families and that's why Albany needs to pass this common-sense legislation that will help protect our most vulnerable citizens," District Attorney Rice said. "I strongly encourage every New Yorker to contact their legislators and demand that they support the full-strength version of Leandra's Law. The safety of our children must be a priority.”
Leandra’s Law has bipartisan support in the State Senate. Governor Paterson, who initially supported the measure, has signaled that he would be open to enacting a watered down version of the law favored by the Assembly which does not include the felony provision.
In addition to the crash which claimed Leandra’s life, there have been numerous other instances where parents were arrested for drunk driving with children in the car. This past summer on the Taconic Parkway, Diane Schuler crashed and killed 7 other people, including 4 children riding in her car, while allegedly driving drunk. According to the Nassau County D.A.’s office, there have been 123 individuals who were charged with DWI and endangering the welfare of child because they were driving drunk with a child in the car in Nassau County since January 1, 2006.
“Recklessly putting a child in harm’s way should be more than a misdemeanor. The Assembly needs to join us in passing this legislation. Stop waiting for the next tragedy to take action; Act now to stop the next tragedy,” Senator Fuschillo added.
Senator Fuschillo is the author of several anti-DWI laws, including New York State’s “.08” law and the law creating the crimes of aggravated vehicular homicide and aggravated vehicular assault for drunk drivers who kill or seriously injure others. Senator Fuschillo is also sponsoring legislation (S27B), which has been unanimously passed by the Senate, to require all convicted DWI offenders to install and use an ignition interlock at their own expense.