The Child Passenger Protection Law, also known as Leandra’s Law, went into effect in New York under former Governor David Paterson on December 18, 2009. The law requires all convicted drunk drivers in New York to have an interlock device installed in their vehicles. In addition, the law makes it a felony to drive intoxicated with a child in the vehicle. New York is one of 36 states that now impose tougher punishments on those who drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol while a child is in the car. Moreover, New York is only one of 10 states to have a mandatory first time interlock device law.
The Child Passenger Protection Law is named after Leandra Rosado, an 11-year-old girl killed in a drunk driving accident. In October 2009, Leandra was one of eight children in an SUV driven by Carmen Huertas, a family friend who was under the influence. Huertas crashed the SUV filled with children on the Henry Hudson Parkway in Manhattan. Leandra was the only person killed in the crash. Her father, Lenny Rosado, lobbied New York lawmakers to pass a stringent drunk driving law in his daughter’s memory.
According to the law, a first time offender driving while intoxicated (.08 blood alcohol content or more) or impaired by drugs with a child less than 16-years-old in the car can be charged with a Class E felony, which is punishable by up to four years in state prison. People who are charged with a blood alcohol content of greater than .08 and who also have a child less than 16-years-old in the car will automatically have their license suspended even while their case is pending. If a driver is intoxicated or impaired by drugs and causes the death of a child less than 16 in the car, the driver can be charged with a Class B felony, which is punishable by up to 25 years in state prison. Moreover, if a driver is intoxicated or impaired by drugs, and if that driver gets into an accident that seriously injuries a child less than 16-years-old in the vehicle, the driver can be charged with a Class C felony, which is punishable by up to 15 years in state prison. Finally, if a parent or legal guardian is charged with driving while intoxicated or impaired by drugs with their own child in the vehicle, that person must be reported to the Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse.
In addition, the law also makes it mandatory for the courts to order all drivers convicted of a felony or misdemeanor drunk driving charge to install an interlock ignition device in any vehicle that they own or operate for at least six months. This requirement even applies to first time offenders, regardless of whether or not they had a child in the vehicle when arrested. An interlock device is a breathalyzer machine that drivers must blow into before they can drive. If the machine detects alcohol, the car won’t start. Drivers must pay for the device, which costs anywhere from $75 to $100 to install and $70 to $100 to maintain on a monthly basis. If a convicted drunk driver drives a vehicle without the interlock device, he or she can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to one year in jail. If a person tries to help a convicted drunk driver to circumvent the device by blowing into it while sober, that person can also be charged with a Class A misdemeanor.
According to Lenny Rosado, the tough law will save lives. He said, “My daughter’s name and Leandra’s Law will save lives from here on.”