Elba Ayala, a 43-year-old Shirley resident, was arrested over the Fourth of July weekend for allegedly driving drunk with five children in her car. The children ranged in age from seven months to eight-years-old. Another adult was also a passenger in the vehicle. Ayala was charged with one count of driving while intoxicated. Under Leandra’s Law, she was also charged with one count of driving while intoxicated with a child passenger 15 years old or younger, and five counts of endangering the welfare of a child. If convicted of the top charge, a class E felony, Ayala could be sentenced up to four years in prison.
According to police officials, the Suffolk County Highway Patrol Selective Alcohol Fatality Enforcement Team (SAFE-T), in conjunction with the Suffolk County Parks Police, were working at a sobriety checkpoint off of the William Floyd Parkway near Smith Point County Park on July 6, 2014. As Ayala approached the checkpoint in her 2010 Nissan Altima, she attempted to evade officials and did not stop her vehicle. However, police pulled Ayala over a short time later and determined that she was impaired. Ayala was arrested and transported to the Seventh Precinct. No injuries were reported as a result of the incident.
Over the holiday weekend, 1,077 cars went through the sobriety checkpoint. Including Ayala, five people were arrested for DWI as a result of the heightened enforcement efforts of police over the holiday weekend.
Leandra’s Law was named after Leandra Rosado, an 11-year-old girl who was killed in 2009 as the result of a drunk driving accident. Leandra was in a vehicle driven by her friend’s mother who was impaired when she crashed on the Henry Hudson Parkway in New York City. Although there were other children in the car at the time, Leandra was the only person killed in the crash. Prior to Leandra’s death, the “Taconic Crash” claimed the lives of eight people, including four children in a car being driven by a drunk driver. As a result of these fatalities, Lenny Rosado, Leandra’s father, called upon New York State lawmakers to toughen DWI penalties for people driving drunk with children in the car.
Lawmakers responded by passing Leandra’s Law, which makes it a class E felony, punishable by up to four years in prison, to drive drunk with a child in the vehicle. If a child is injured, a drunk driver faces up to seven years in prison; if a child is killed, a drunk driver faces up to 15 years in prison. The law also requires all DWI offenders, even first time offenders, to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicles for at least six months.