Bill Would Increase Compliance with Mandatory Ignition Interlock Requirement. To reduce the number of drunk drivers on the road and keep communities safer, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver joined with Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg to announce the passage of legislation that builds on Leandra’s Law by ensuring convicted drunk drivers better comply with the law’s mandatory ignition interlock requirement (A.2285-A/Weisenberg). Ignition interlocks are breath test devices linked to a vehicle’s ignition system which prevent the car from starting if alcohol is detected on the driver’s breath.
“Drunk driving has cost the lives of hundreds of innocent people and will not be tolerated here in New York State under any circumstance,” Silver said. “Any death or injury caused by drunk driving is one too many. Despite strong DWI laws like Leandra’s Law, an unintentional loophole existed that allowed convicted drunk drivers to avoid installing an ignition interlock system in their cars. We have closed that loophole and are sending a clear message that there is never an excuse for drinking and driving, a reckless decision that puts the lives of so many people in danger.”
Lenny Rosado, father of Leandra Rosado for whom Leandra’s Law was named, said, “Leandra was my life. She continues to inspire me to keep pushing to make the law in her name stronger. Assemblyman Weisenberg, Senator Fuschillo and D.A. Rice worked hard on this law but I want to thank Speaker Silver for making sure this got done. More interlocks in cars will save people’s lives.”
“This legislation closes a loophole that enabled some individuals convicted of DWI to avoid using an ignition interlock device as ordered by the court,” said Weisenberg. “I am deeply appreciative of the efforts of our local and national chapters of MADD and the Nassau County District Attorney and her staff for helping us to keep dangerous drivers off the road and, in doing so, potentially saving thousands of lives.”
The bill would require that a person found driving a vehicle with a conditional license while drunk or impaired would be charged with first degree aggravated unlicensed operation (AUO) of a motor vehicle, a class E felony. The legislation also clarifies that young offenders would be subject to ignition interlock requirements. All offenders would be subject to ignition interlock requirements for a minimum period of 12 months initially, with a reduction to six months after the offender has submitted proof that the he or she installed and maintained the ignition interlock device for at least six months. This provision is intended to increase the number of individuals who actually use the devices.
There has been an approximately 18 percent decrease in alcohol-related crashes in New York State from 2005-2011 due largely in part to initiatives such as aggravated DWI, mandatory alcohol assessments and Leandra’s Law (Chapter 496 of 2009). This law makes it an automatic felony on the first offense to drive drunk with a person aged 15 years or younger inside the vehicle.
Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice said, “This legislation takes the necessary steps toward making all DWI offenders get ignition interlocks as Lenny Rosado intended, and holds accountable those offenders who drive drunk with a conditional license by creating a felony charge. Speaker Silver’s leadership, along with the tireless efforts of Assemblyman Harvey Weisenberg and Senator Charles Fuschillo, was essential to strengthening Leandra’s Law and making our roads safer.”
Additionally under Leandra’s Law, individuals convicted of driving under the influence are barred from driving a vehicle unless it is equipped with an ignition interlock device, which prevents a car from starting if it detects that the driver has ingested alcohol. This restriction is recorded on the driver’s DMV record, and it is deemed a criminal offense to drive without the mandatory interlock.