The tragedy caused by drunk driving
Leandra Rosado was an 11 year old girl who was killed on the West Side Highway in New York City on October 11, 2009. Leandra was a passenger along with six other young girls in a car driven by her friend’s mother, Carmen Huertas. Ms. Huertas was driving at 70 mph and lost control of the vehicle. The car flipped over expelling several of the girls. Leandra was killed and the other six children were injured. Ms. Huertas had a blood alcohol level of .12 – well above the legal limit of .08.
The state takes swift action
The Child Passenger Protection Act known as Leandra’s Law was unanimously passed by the state legislature and signed into law by Governor Patterson on November 18, 2009 in the aftermath of the Leandra’s tragic death. A new crime of Aggravated Driving While Intoxicated with a child (Vehicle & Traffic Law 1192(2-a)(b) was enacted.
Whether the driver was intoxicated or impaired by drugs, or both, so long as there was a child passenger in the car at the time of the incident, the driver who is convicted of either DWI, Aggravated DWI, or Driving while Ability Impaired by Drugs faces very serious consequences:
- First-time offenders may be charged with a Class E felony punishable by up to four years in state prison even if the child passenger was unharmed.
- If the conviction arises out of an incident where the intoxicated or drug impaired driver causes the death of a child younger than 16 in the car, the driver may be charged with a Class B felony, punishable by up to 25 years in state prison.
- Drivers who drive while intoxicated or impaired by drugs and cause serious physical injury to a child in the vehicle may be charged with a Class C felony, punishable by up to 15 years in state prison.
- Parents, guardians, custodians and others who are legally responsible for a child, and are charged with a driving while intoxicated or impaired by drugs while that child is a passenger in the vehicle, are reported to the Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment by the arresting agency.
- Child Protective Services will conduct a thorough investigation of the motorist and the family residing with the motorist.
- An Order of Protection will entered against the driver in favor of the child passenger at arraignment. The Order will likely preclude the driver from having any contact whatsoever with the child passenger.
- Modification of an Order of Protection will likely require an application in Family Court.
- A minimum one year License revocation
- An ignition interlock device must be installed and maintained on any vehicle owned or operated by the driver for at least six months following the conclusion of the license revocation period.
- Heavy fines and surcharges will be imposed at sentencing.
There have been 4,277 Leandra’s Law arrests statewide since its inception in December 2009 through December 2014 according to statistics from the New York State Department of Criminal Justice Services. 249 arrests have been made in Westchester County. Anyone facing such charges must have representation by an experienced criminal defense attorney
What became of the driver who caused Leandra’s death?
Carmen Huertas was convicted of multiple felonies including manslaughter in the second degree and vehicular manslaughter in the second degree. She attempted suicide three times prior to sentencing according to her attorney. Ms. Huertas is currently serving a 4-12 year sentence in state prison. She was denied parole in October 2013 and has her next parole hearing in June 2015.
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