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Leandra’s Law Marks One Year

By now, New Yorkers are very familiar with Leandra’s Law, the 2009 rule that toughened drunk driving penalties within the state. The law made it a Class E felony if caught driving while intoxicated if a child under the age of 16 was present in the vehicle. Additionally, anyone convicted of a DWI, even first-time offenders, would be forced to install an ignition interlock device in their automobiles. It is one of the toughest DWI laws in the entire U.S.

Now that the rule has been in effect for a little over a year, officials have started to release information regarding the number of drivers facing Leandra’s Law charges. The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services reports that as of February 22, over 984 Leandra’s Law arrests have been made since the law went into effect. Of the 310 drivers convicted of a Leandra’s Law related-offense, 214 received felony convictions. Over 40 percent of those convicted received at least some jail time.

The statistics demonstrate that prosecutors have not been shy about charging drunk drivers with felonies if they have violated this law. Prior to the enactment of the law, it may have been possible for an offender to work out a plea agreement to lesser charges, but those offers may no longer be forthcoming.

While the law has significantly increased the attention focused on the issue of drunk driving, it is extremely costly to enforce. Counties have had to hire additional probation officers, as the number of cases requiring post-release supervision continues to rise. Additionally, the state money pledged to help monitor ignition interlock devices was a one-time only grant. Once the money runs out, local governments will need to find a way to pay for the program.

Prosecutors will still aggressively enforce DWI laws, especially against those who have violated Leandra’s Law. Even with strict DWI laws, officials may need to determine additional methods to reduce the number of drunk drivers on area roadways. The tough laws already in place could become even more challenging for those accused of DWI in New York.