State Legislators Call for the Signing of Legislation that Strengthens Leandra’s Law
Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano was joined today by State Senator Charles Fuschillo; State Assemblymen Harvey Weisenberg and Dave McDonough; Presiding Officer of the Nassau County Legislator Norma Gonsalves; Nassau County Police Commissioner Tom Dale and Chief of Patrol Frank Kirby; Danielle Rella and Dina Cohen of Mothers Against Drunk Driving; Marge Lee of DEDICATEDD; Town of Oyster Bay Councilwoman Michele Johnson and Clerk James Altadonna, Jr.; and Larry Blessinger of All Island Transportation at a press conference where he announced that Nassau County will participate in a “STOP-DWI” Program that allocates additional police officers to conduct extensive DWI/BWI enforcement initiatives over the July 4th week.
County Executive Mangano stated, “Nassau County Police Officers will be targeting drunk drivers and boaters on land and sea looking to prevent the kind of senseless alcohol-related accidents that, unfortunately, often occur during a holiday. There will be additional police patrols throughout Nassau County and chances are if you drive drunk at any point, you will be arrested. Think before you drink. Don’t drink and drive.”
Intensified police patrols for this July 4th weekend are funded by a special grant from the New York State STOP DWI Coordinator’s Association and the New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee. This initiative provides the Nassau County Police Department (NCPD) and other local police departments throughout the county with additional funding to implement an effective DWI drunk and drugged driving saturation enforcement strategy that has proven successful in years past. The NCPD’s Highway Patrol Bureau, with the Nassau County STOP DWI Program, will coordinate this initiative that targets certain areas throughout Nassau County. In 2012, 45 DWI arrests were made in Nassau County over the July 4th weekend.
In coordination with the “Stop DWI” initiative, the Nassau County Police Department in cooperation with the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services will conduct a multi-agency initiative that cracks down on law violators in our waterways, which includes but is not limited to those Boating While Intoxicated.
Building on the County’s DWI/BWI enforcement initiatives, Senator Fuschillo and Assemblyman Weisenberg called upon Governor Cuomo to sign legislation that strengthens Leandra’s Law.The legislation requires more convicted drunk drivers use ignition interlocks, makes it more difficult for drivers to claim they will not operate a car, and enhances penalties for individuals who try to escape the law through fraud.
Leandra’s Law was passed in 2009 following the tragic death of 11 year old Leandra Rosado, who was killed while riding in a car driven by her friend’s intoxicated mother. As part of Leandra’s Law, all convicted DWI offenders must install and use an ignition interlock in all vehicles they own or operate for a period of at least six months after their DWI conviction. Ignition interlocks are breath test devices linked to a vehicle’s ignition system which prevent the car from starting if alcohol is detected in the driver’s breath.
Many drunk drivers seek to avoid the ignition interlock requirement by claiming they do not own or operate a vehicle, waiting for the interlock period to run out, and then reapplying for a license without ever having to use the interlock. Some of these drivers temporarily transfer ownership of the car to a relative or friend, who then allows that person to drive it without an interlock. According to the most recent statistics from the New York State Department of Criminal Justice Services, more than 70% of the over 45,000 DWI offenders statewide required to install an ignition interlock in their vehicles have failed to do so.
The legislation (S. 5859) would raise the minimum amount of time drivers who do not install an ignition interlock must wait to have their driver’s licenses restored from six months to one year. If an offender installs an interlock, a judge would have the authority to remove the interlock restriction after 6 months if the offender demonstrates that they have installed and maintained the interlock during that time period. Making offenders eligible to have their licenses restored sooner for installing the interlock would create a greater incentive for them to use the devices.
Additionally, offenders attempting to avoid the interlock requirement by claiming not to own a motor vehicle would have to assert to the court, under oath, that they are not a vehicle owner and will not drive during the period of interlock restriction. Offenders who lie under oath that they would not operate a vehicle and do not own a car would be potentially subject to additional charges.
The legislation corrects an inequity in current law which allows individuals who drive drunk with a conditional license to face significantly lesser penalties than those who drive drunk with a suspended or revoked license. Conditional licenses allow eligible DWI offenders to drive in certain circumstances, such as going to work, doctors appointments, or to DWI programs. However, the penalty for DWI with a conditional license is only a traffic infraction, while DWI with a suspended or revoked license is a class E felony.
The legislation would raise the penalty for DWI with a conditional license to a class E felony, punishable by a prison sentence of up to four years. This would create consistency with the existing penalties for DWI with a suspended or revoked license.
“Drunk drivers jeopardize the lives and safety of innocent people every time they get behind the wheel. Leandra's Law requires convicted DWI offenders to use ignition interlocks because they help prevent these offenders from driving drunk again. However, the law must be strengthened because far too many offenders have found ways to avoid using them. Implementing new incentives for offenders to use interlocks and strengthening penalties for drunk drivers who commit fraud to avoid the law will help make our roads safer for everyone. That is why Governor Cuomo should sign this legislation into law when it reaches his desk,” said Senator Fuschillo.
“New York has some of the toughest DWI laws in the nation, but we must make sure that all parts of the law are properly implemented,” said Assemblyman 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.”
County Executive Mangano reminds residents:
In addition to the Nassau County Police Department the following Village and City Police Department’s in Nassau County will be participating in the Fourth of July Holiday weekend’s intensified “STOP DWI” initiative: Garden City Police Department, Great Neck Estates Police Department, Hempstead Police Department, Kensington Police Department, Kings Point Police Department, Lake Success Police Department, Long Beach Police Department, Lynbrook Police Department, Old Westbury Police Department and Rockville Centre Police Department.