The Child Passenger Protection Act, commonly known as Leandra’s Law, refers to the law prohibiting driving while intoxicated with a minor in the vehicle. This child endangerment law, a felony in the state of New York, implements harsh penalties in order to curtail dangerous driving which risks young people’s lives. When it passed this law, New York joined 35 other states to impose extremely tough sanctions on drivers since 2009.
Leandra’s Law is named in memory of 11-year-old Leandra Rosado, who was killed when being driven with seven other children in New York City. The driver was charged with manslaughter. As a result of this lower crime imposed on the driver, Leandra’s father advocated for the law after Leandra’s death. To be charged under Leandra’s Law, the driver of a vehicle must not only be drunk but also carrying a passenger in the vehicle who is younger than 16 years of age.
Punishment Under Leandra's Law
Defendants charged under Leandra’s Law automatically face a felony charge. The penalties for those convicted are severe, even for first-time offenders. Penalties include up to 4 years in state prison (if the child is unharmed), up to 15 years if the child is injured, and up to 25 years if the child is killed.
Financially, the state may charge a fine of $1000 to $5000 and may issue a mandatory ignition interlock device (a device that attaches to the car’s ignition system, blocking the car from starting until the driver breathes into the device). Leandra’s Law imposes higher penalties because a person under the age of 16 may feel more pressured to enter and ride in the car, as opposed to an adult.
In addition to these possible penalties, if the driver is the child’s parent, the parent will be reported to New York’s Statewide Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment. Following the passage of Leandra’s Law, New York became the 36th state to have child endangerment laws with increased sanctions against drivers putting minors at risk.
Even though the penalties are potentially severe, a few hurdles still exist before a driver can be convicted under this law. First, New York must prove the underlying driving while intoxicated charge. As a result, prosecutors have more difficulty proving a DWI charge for drivers who refuse to submit to a breath or blood test.
Drivers can also challenge the legality of the traffic stop in addition to the process the police used to obtain the evidence such as a breath test or a blood draw. As a result, though thousands have faced Leandra’s Law charges, relatively few people have actually been sentenced to prison. However, the law’s severe penalties act as a deterrent to driving while intoxicated with minors in the car.
In New York, Long Island leads the number of people arrested under Leandra’s law. Statistics from the New York State Department of Criminal Justice indicate that from 2009 through 2014, Suffolk County police made a total of 384 arrests under Leandra’s law. This is the most of any state in the county. Additionally, Nassau County ranked 5th in New York for the number of arrests under Leandra’s Law with a total of 185 arrests from 2009 through 2014.
Due to the severity of this crime, an experienced lawyer is essential to help you navigate the complexities of this law, who will not only help advocate on your behalf but also attempt to keep you out of jail. Act in your best interest starting now.
Call us at (845) 363-1994 for more information from Christopher York Attorney at Law or to schedule a consultation in our office in Brewster.
NOTE: This is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.
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