In December 2009, Leandra’s Law made New York’s consequences for drunk driving among the strictest in the nation. In its first year, hundreds of New Yorkers were arrested under the new law, and the increased probation supervision it requires is straining county probation offices.

Leandra’s Law

Leandra’s Law, also known as the Child Passenger Protection Act, provides stiff prison penalties for someone convicted of a DWI when a child under age 16 was in the car at the time of the offense. If a child passenger was injured or killed because the driver was intoxicated or impaired by drugs, the driver could face 15-25 years in prison.

Under Leandra’s Law, all drivers with any DWI convictions are required to use ignition interlock devices for at least six months. The devices are mandatory even for first-time offenders, and also even if no child was a passenger in the car. Drivers must pay for the equipment installation and maintenance themselves.

Ignition Interlock Devices

An ignition interlock device is a breathalyzer instrument installed in a vehicle. Before the car will start, the driver must provide a breath sample; if alcohol is detected, the car will not start. According to the New York State Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), installation of an interlock device costs between $75 and $100, and there also is a monthly fee that ranges from $70 to $100.

Paying for an interlock device is often difficult for people required to use them, and the additional probation oversight the law requires is also a hardship for probation offices.

Probation Supervision

In August 2010, New York county probation offices became responsible for verifying that ignition interlock devices are used by people convicted of DWIs. Probation officers must make sure the equipment is installed, and they also are sent to visit people who fail the breathalyzer test. The individual is then brought to the probation office for a confirmation test for the presence of alcohol.

The cost of probation’s additional involvement in these cases far exceeds each department’s budget. An official from the Genesee County Probation Department estimated that Leandra’s Law will increase overtime costs for the department in 2011 by an estimated $81,500. That is nearly a 3,000 percent increase from the $2,500 budgeted for overtime in 2010, said probation director Julie Smith.

The Daily News reported that many county officials see Leandra’s Law as another unfunded mandate from the state government. Meanwhile, at the Legislature, lawmakers are discussing potential modifications to the law. In addition, the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee awarded $3 million in grants to help counties supervise people with ignition interlock devices installed on their vehicles.

Leandra’s Law Statistics

According to the New York State DCJS, 331 arrests were made under Leandra’s Law from its effective date, December 18, 2009, through July 10, 2010. Currently, about 2,000 drivers in New York have court-ordered ignition interlock devices installed on their vehicles. For 2011, the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee estimates that 25,000 drivers will have the equipment. Therefore, the impact of Leandra’s Law is likely to grow.

If you have questions about DWI charges, Leandra’s Law or ignition interlock devices, contact an experienced DWI lawyer in your area.