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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

New York Passes Tough New Driving Law

In November, the New York State Assembly passed the toughest drunk driving law in the nation. The new legislation, known as Leandra's Law, was named for 11 year old Leandra Rosada who was killed just a month earlier while riding with the mother of one of her friends. Her friend's mother was allegedly driving while impaired and flipped her vehicle on Manhattan's Henry Hudson Parkway. The bill, signed by Governor Paterson on November 18th, imposes stiff new penalties for anyone who drives under the influence while a child under the age of 16 is in the car.

In the legislation's Statement of Support, the bill's authors wrote:

"While all persons who drive while intoxicated pose a danger to others, the person who knowingly chooses to drive drunk with children in the car has made a conscious decision to put those children at risk of harm or death. An adult can take steps to avoid riding with a drunk or impaired driver. But a child may not have that choice, particularly when the driver is a parent or guardian."

Previous New York Law made driving under the influence of alcohol or other drugs a misdemeanor. The new law makes it a felony to drive under the influence while a child under the age of 16 is in the vehicle.

Other provisions in the law include:

  • A provision that requires law enforcement officers to note when a child a child or person other than the offender has been killed or suffered serious physical injury; or when a child of fifteen years or under is present in the vehicle at the time of the arrest.

  • A provision that requires law enforcement officers, when a child is present in the vehicle of an impaired driver who is their parent, legal guardian, or custodian, to report the offense to the Department of Social Services.

  • A provision that prohibits anyone charged with aggravated driving while intoxicated with a child from any type of plea bargain that would reduce the charge down to a non-criminal offense.

  • A provision that mandates the installation of an interlock device in vehicles after the first conviction for driving under the influence and makes tampering with an interlock a criminal offense.

  • A provision that amends penal law to increase the penalties for anyone who commits any of the following offenses while driving under the influence:

  • Increases the charge of Vehicular Assault in the second degree to Vehicular Assault in the first degree for anyone who causes serious physical injury to a passenger who is under the age of 16.

  • Increases the charge for anyone who commits Vehicular Assault in the second degree to Aggravated Vehicular Assault if they engage in reckless driving that causes serious physical injury to a passenger who is a under the age of 16.

  • Increases the charge for anyone who commits Vehicular Manslaughter in the second degree to Vehicular Manslaughter in the first degree for anyone who causes the death of a passenger who is under the age of 16.

  • Increases the charge for anyone who commits the crime of Vehicular Manslaughter to Aggravated Vehicular Manslaughter for anyone who engages in reckless driving and causes the death of a passenger who is under the age of 16.
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