Tougher Drunken Driving Regulations Take Effect Friday

MINEOLA, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Convicted drunken drivers are too often lying about not owning cars to avoid using breath-test ignition systems to drive, Nassau County’s district attorney says.

As WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall reported, updates to Leandra’s Law targeting such cases are set to effect Friday. District Attorney Kathleen Rice said in a news conference Thursday that many drivers convicted of DWI have transferred the titles of their cars to dodge court-ordered ignition interlock systems in their vehicles.

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Betsy Shein’s 21-year-old son, Jason, was killed in 2008 by a drunken driver who had previously been convicted of a DWI and transferred ownership of his vehicle to avoid the breath tests, prosecutors said.

“Unless this happens to them, they will never, never know the pain that it does to a whole family,” Betsy Shein said.

“My daughter here just had a baby that will never, ever know their Uncle Jason.”

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Under the updates to Leandra’s Law:

  • Drivers who were given a conditional license after a DWI incident and then drive impaired again can be charged with a felony instead of merely a traffic infraction.
  • The period of interlock restrictions for drivers who claim they don’t own or won’t operate a car will be raised from a minimum of six months to one year.
  • Defendants must make statements about their car ownership or use under oath, which would allow prosecutors to charge them with contempt of court of filing a false instrument if they are caught lying.
  • Interlocks can be installed pre-sentence, which gives prosecutors and courts more control on ensuring they are put in place.
  • The statute was clarified to say that mandatory interlocks apply to “youthful offenders.”

“We’re one of the toughest states in the country on drunk drivers, and tomorrow we’re going to be even tougher,” Rice said in a news release. “These updates to Leandra’s Law will help us keep convicted drunk drivers off the road, where sadly we’ve seen them take innocent lives.”

Leandra’s Law was adopted in 2009, creating a series of new crimes involving drunken driving while a child is in the car. It also established a requirement that all convicted drunken drivers install the breath-activated interlock devices in their vehicles. The law is named after Leandra Rosado, who at age 11 was killed when an SUV she and seven other children were riding in and being driven by an impaired woman crashed on the Henry Hudson Parkway in Manhattan.

Leandra’s father, Lenny Rosado, was among those who spoke at Thursday’s news conference.

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