Senator Fuschillo reminds people that starting tomorrow, those who drive drunk with a child in the car will face felony charges under Leandra’s Law. He is joined by Leandra Rosado’s father, Lenny (second right), Assemblyman Weisenberg (right), Nassau County Police Commissioner Lawrence Mulvey (left), and Farmingdale State College President Dr. Hubert Keen (second left).
Senator Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr. today joined with state and local officials, law enforcement, and victims’ advocates to remind people that Leandra’s Law, one of the toughest anti-DWI laws in the country, goes into effect tomorrow. Lenny Rosado, the father of the eleven year old girl for whom the law is named, joined with Senator Fuschillo in urging New Yorkers not to endanger the lives of children by putting them in a car and driving drunk.
Leandra’s Law is named after 11 year old Leandra Rosado, who was killed while riding in a car that crashed along the Henry Hudson Parkway in October. The driver of the car, who was the mother of one of Leandra’s friends, was arrested for DWI. The law was authored by Senator Fuschillo (R-Merrick), Senator Martin Dilan (D-Brooklyn), and Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach) and signed by Governor David Paterson last month.
Senator Fuschillo said, “Leandra’s Law gives New York State one of the strongest DWI laws in the country. Starting tomorrow, drunk drivers who hold a child’s life hostage by placing them in a car and driving drunk will face felony charges. We are reminding New Yorkers that this law is taking effect and urging them not to endanger children’s lives by drinking and driving, because if they do, they will face serious consequences.”
Mr. Rosado said, “My only daughter was taken away from me by a drunk driver. No other family should ever have to go through the pain I feel every single day. Now that we’ve passed this law and made this crime a felony, I am hopeful that we can stop adults from putting children’s lives at risk. Saving lives through this law will ensure that Leandra’s death will not be in vain.”
Assemblyman Weisenberg said, “This law is a reminder that too many children have been injured or killed because those responsible for protecting them sometimes ignore that commitment. Today we send a message of deterrence, and if that message is not heeded, the punishment will now fit the crime.”
Governor Paterson said, “When I introduced The Child Passenger Protection Act - now known as Leandra’s Law - it was because too often drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs chose to compromise not only their own lives, but also the lives of our children. Today, we say enough. This legislation sets some of the toughest DWI penalties in the nation, providing law enforcement officials with the tools they need to prosecute offenders. I thank my colleagues in the Senate and Assembly for working to prevent future tragedies of young lives needlessly cut short.”
Deputy Secretary for Public Safety Denise E. O’Donnell said, “Until today, New York was one of only 15 states that did not have a special child endangerment law imposing tougher sanctions on those who drive drunk with a child in the vehicle. Thanks to the leadership of Governor Paterson, Senator Fuschillo and Assemblyman Weisenberg, New York now has what I believe is the strongest law in the nation. Today, we send a loud, clear and strong message to those who would recklessly and selfishly risk the lives of children: Your conduct is not acceptable. It will not be tolerated. And if you flout this law, you will pay a heavy price.”
State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS) Commissioner Karen M. Carpenter-Palumbo said, “The story of Leandra Rosado is a tragedy – for her family, for parents, for communities, for every New Yorker. But it is a tragedy that could have been prevented. We must recognize that addiction is a chronic but treatable illness. We must hold those who drive under the influence accountable, but we also need to encourage community members to involve themselves, take away the keys and prevent another senseless death. It takes community involvement to save a life – together, we have the power to make a difference.”
Under Leandra’s Law, those convicted of driving drunk (.08 BAC or higher) with a child in the car will be charged with a class E felony and face up to 4 years in prison.
Additional penalties are created for cases where children are killed or seriously injured while riding in a car with a drunk driver. Drunk drivers who cause the death of a child riding in their car will face up to 25 years in prison. Those who seriously injure their child passenger in a DWI crash will face up to 15 years in prison.
Leandra’s Law also expands the use of ignition interlocks, which are breath test devices that prevent a vehicle from starting if it detects alcohol in the driver’s breath. Those convicted of driving drunk with a child in the car will not be permitted to operate a vehicle without having an ignition interlock installed. Starting August 15, 2010, that sanction will apply to any driver convicted of a DWI offense in New York State, including first time offenders.
Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said "Leandra's Law sends the message to drunk drivers across New York that we will not tolerate them holding children hostage while they endanger every motorist and passenger on the road. Our fight against drunk driving will not stop until every motorist understands the inevitable consequences that come from drinking and driving.”
Suffolk County District Attorney Tom Spota said “This legislation is a recognition of the increasing need to protect our children, who are not in a position to protect themselves, from harm caused by drunk drivers. In Suffolk County, and I’m sure elsewhere as well, violators will be prosecuted vigorously and effectively.
Nassau County Police Commissioner Lawrence W. Mulvey stated, “In law enforcement, we come across thousands of individuals who break the law and drive while intoxicated. In some of these instances, these defendants are transporting children who have no choice but to be in that car in a very dangerous situation. With Leandra's law in place those individuals will be charged with a felony which is truly fitting with the seriousness of the crime they are accused of committing. Having this law in effect will help serve as another deterrent and will send a clear message that Nassau County and New York State will not rest until drunk driving is eliminated.”
Major Walter Heesch, Commanding Officer of New York State Police Troop L, said, "Troopers and Police Officers across New York State applaud Senator Fuschillo, Assemblyman Weisenberg, and the rest of the state legislature who were responsible for passing Leandra's Law. Kids and young adults are most vulnerable because of their reliance on parents and care givers to drive them. Parents and care givers must set the example. One more innocent life lost is too many."
Denna Cohen, Chair of MADD Long Island’s Advisory Council, said “New York is leading the nation in making child endangerment a felony. It is about time the act of driving drunk with a child in the car is seen as a form of child abuse. This holiday season and year round, every child deserves a sober designated driver.”