Michael F. Nozzolio

November 18, 2009

Law Would Create Felony Charges For Driving Drunk With a Child in the Car, Require All Convicted DWI Offenders to Use Ignition Interlocks

State Senator Mike Nozzolio today announced that the State Senate and Assembly, have enacted legislation he co-sponsored to create felony charges for those who drive drunk with a child in the car. The bill was also signed into law today by the Governor.

“Endangering the safety of a child is one of the most serious crimes a person can commit and drunk drivers who put children’s lives at risk need to face felony charges,” said Senator Nozzolio. “It is essential to enact legislation that will strengthen our State’s DWI laws to further protect our most vulnerable citizens. I am proud that New York now has one of the toughest drunk driving laws in the country.”

The legislation, known as “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 New York City last month. The driver of the car, who was the mother of one of Leandra’s friends, was arrested for DWI.

Under the legislation, those convicted of driving drunk (.08 BAC or higher) with a child in the car would be guilty of a class E felony and face up to 4 years in prison.  

Additional penalties would be 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 would face up to 25 years in prison. Those who seriously injure their child passenger in a DWI crash would face up to 15 years in prison.

In addition, any driver convicted of a DWI offense, including first time offenders, would not be permitted to operate a vehicle without having an ignition interlock installed. An ignition interlock is a breath test device linked to a vehicle’s ignition system.  Offenders must blow into the interlock before starting their vehicle. The interlock will prevent the car from starting if it detects alcohol in the driver’s breath. 

“In addition to strengthening the penalties for those who are convicted of drunk driving, we must also prevent drunk drivers from ever getting behind the wheel in the first place,” said Senator Nozzolio. “This legislation will help accomplish that goal through ignition interlocks, which have been proven to reduce repeat drunk driving offenses by an average of 64 percent according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving.”   

Senator Nozzolio, the former chairman of the Senate Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections Committee, has supported numerous measures that have helped to prevent drunk driving and to keep repeat drunk drivers off the road.  Among these measures were provisions to increase fines and periods of license revocation, limit plea-bargaining and create new crimes for drunk drivers who kill or injure innocent victims. 

“Leandra’s Law is a significant victory in our continued efforts to make New York’s roadways the safest in the Nation. I commend all of the victims’ families, law enforcement, advocacy groups, and especially Leandra’s father, Lenny Rosado, who worked tirelessly in fighting for this law. I am pleased that we were able to honor Leandra’s memory in this way,” Senator Nozzolio concluded.