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Senator Fuschillo: Driving Drunk With a Child Is Now a Felony

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 October. The driver of the car, who was the mother of one of Leandra’s friends, was arrested for DWI. The law was authored by Senator Fuschillo (R-Merrick), Senator Martin Dilan (D-Brooklyn), and Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg (D-Long Beach) and signed by Governor David Paterson last month.

On Thursday Dec. 17, the day before the law went into place Fuschillo said, “Leandra’s Law gives New York State one of the strongest DWI laws in the country. Starting tomorrow, drunk drivers who hold a child’s life hostage by placing them in a car and driving drunk will face felony charges. We are reminding New Yorkers that this law is taking effect and urging them not to endanger children’s lives by drinking and driving, because if they do, they will face serious consequences.”

Mr. Rosado said, “My only daughter was taken away from me by a drunk driver. No other family should ever have to go through the pain I feel every single day. Now that we’ve passed this law and made this crime a felony, I am hopeful that we can stop adults from putting children’s lives at risk. Saving lives through this law will ensure that Leandra’s death will not be in vain.”

Under Leandra’s Law, those arrested for driving drunk, with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher, with a child in the car will be charged with a class E felony and face up to four years in prison.

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

Leandra’s Law also expands the use of ignition interlocks, which are breath test devices that prevent a vehicle from starting if it detects alcohol in the driver’s breath. Those convicted of driving drunk with a child in the car will not be permitted to operate a vehicle without having an ignition interlock installed. Starting August 15, 2010, that sanction will apply to any driver convicted of a DWI offense in New York State, including first time offenders.

Denna Cohen, Chair of MADD Long Island’s Advisory Council, said “New

York is leading the nation in making child endangerment a felony. It is about time the act of driving drunk with a child in the car is seen as a form of child abuse. This holiday season and year round, every child deserves a sober designated driver.”