New York Assembly Passes Tough New DWI Law

By Kamika Dunlap on November 19, 2009 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

A new bill requiring ignition interlock devices for everyone convicted of driving while intoxicated is expected to reach the New York State Governor's desk this week.

The measure has passed the State Assembly and now needs a nod from New York's Senate.

If approved, New York will be one of only a dozen states that make it a felony to drive intoxicated with children as passengers and force first time DWI offenders to have an ingnition interlock device installed.

According to the New York Times, the new legislation, Leandra's Law, pushes for some of the nation's toughest drunk-driving penalties.

Leandra Rosado, 11, was killed in October after the mother of one of her friends, who has since been charged with vehicular manslaughter and driving while intoxicated, flipped her car on the Henry Hudson Parkway in Manhattan.

An ignition interlock device measures the alcohol content of a driver's breath and prevents the engine from starting if it detects a too-high level.

Under Leandra's Law, drivers convicted of being drunk while carrying passengers 15 years or younger could face up to four years in prison.

There are 46 states that have laws permitting interlock devices for impaired drivers. However, the law is only mandatory for first time offenders in six states including New Mexico, Arizona, Illinois, Louisiana, New England and Washington.

A study by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration estimates that if interlock devices were more widely installed, they would save up to 750 lives a year.

In California, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger of California signed into law a pilot program last month making an interlock device mandatory for first-time drunken drivers in four counties, including Los Angeles and Sacramento.

Here is a quick run down of of the legislation, which creates a new section of the Vehicle and Traffic Law and repeals the current version:

  • Makes it a felony to operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol content of .08, or impaired by drugs, with a child passenger who is 15
  • Requires first-time convicted drunken drivers to buy a device that prevents them from driving their cars if they have been drinking
  • Mandates that every person sentenced for a misdemeanor DWI, or DWI-related penal law felony, install an interlock device.
  • If a convicted driver tries to bypass or tamper with the interlock, he or she would commit a crime.

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