David Paterson has signed into law one of the toughest pieces of drunk driving legislation in the country. Named after an 11-year-old girl who was killed by a drunk driver earlier this year, Leandra’s Law makes it a first-time felony offense for driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs or both while transporting passengers age 15 and under. The measure also requires the use of mandatory ignition interlock systems if convicted in New York State.
The bill was sponsored by Senator Martin Malave Dilan, and mandates that any individual driving with a blood alcohol level of .08 or over, with a passenger under the age of 16 will be charged with a Class E felony – for both first-time and repeat offenders. The offense carries a sentence of one to four years in state prison, a fine of $1000 to $5000, and the issuance of a mandatory ignition interlock device, to be installed at the cost of the perpetrator.
“I’m most concerned with the 59 children injured last year due to drunk drivers, and that cannot be tolerated,” Senator Dilan said. “One child injured or killed is totally unacceptable, and the message is for drivers in New York State, that they should know beforehand if they drive drunk, and if they have a child in the car, there will be zero tolerance.”
In mid-October, 11-year-old Leandra Rosado was killed when a car carrying her and six other children overturned on the Henry Hudson Parkway. Another crash in late October led to the deaths of 15-year-old Katherine Willis and 5-year-old Melissa Ehl-Mirra and the serious injury of three other children.
New York State is now one of just twelve states that require the installation of a mandatory ignition interlock device that will first test the alcohol level of the driver before allowing him or her to start the ignition. After the passage of Leandra’s Law, Senator Dilan said that he has received calls from several legislators from various states across the country, including Florida, inquiring about the law. In addition to enforcing strict consequences in New York State, Dilan hopes the law will set an example for other state lawmakers.
“Once we passed this piece of legislation we received calls from other states requesting copies of the legislation so they can model similar state legislation,” Dilan said. “Other states in the country will be looking at Leandra’s law. Many communities across the state have reached out to me indicating that they are very pleased with the law.”
Among the law’s most active and vocal champions was Leandra Rosado’s father, who consistently put pressure on state legislators and lobbyists to push the legislation through.
“With respect to Leandra’s law, this piece of legislation can be a model for the entire country. Lenny Rosado, Leandra’s father, deserves a lot of credit,” Dilan said. “It sends a symbolic message—if you’re going to drink at all, you shouldn’t drive. And if you have a child in the car, you shouldn’t even think of drinking. In New York City we have subways, taxis, car services, designated drivers—there’s no excuse to drink and drive.”