What Leandra’s Law Means for You

In 2009, New York State passed a law that made its penalties on drunk driving with child passengers the highest in the nation. The Child Passenger Protection Act entails the possibility of a felony if you have a minor in your vehicle when you are driving while intoxicated. Because you may be putting minors at the risk of harm, it is a heightened offense. If you have been charged under the Child Passenger Protection Act, it’s important to know why you have been charged, what you’re facing, and what your options are.

Credit: Amanda Mills, USCDCP / Public Domain

History of the law

The Child Passenger Protection Act, or Leandra’s Law, was signed into New York law on November 18, 2009 following a crash on the Henry Hudson Parkway on October 11 that killed 11-year-old Leandra Rosado. The six other passengers, all of whom were between 11 and 14 years old, and the driver, Carmen Huertas, were also injured. A Breathalyzer test revealed that Huertas, who flipped over a guardrail after losing control of her car, had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .12 at the time of the crash. The legal limit for a DWI in New York State is .08. Leandra’s Law increased New York’s penalties on drunk driving with children in the car.

What are the penalties?

Under Leandra’s Law, driving with at least a blood alcohol level of .08 with a child under the age of 15 in the car is a Class E felony for both first-time and repeat offenders. This means that the offense comes with a sentence of one to four years in state prison, a fine of $1000 to $5000, and the issuance of a mandatory ignition interlock device. These penalties increase if the child is injured. In that case, the driver is charged with a Class D felony, which means a state prison sentence of one to seven years. If there was also reckless driving involved, the charge is a Class C felony, which carries a maximum prison sentence of 15 years.

If an intoxicated driver causes the death of a child, the charge would also be a Class C felony. If reckless driving was a contributing factor, the driver would be charged with a Class B felony and face up to 25 years in prison. In addition to these charges, any parent caught driving impaired with their children will also be reported to the Statewide Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment. With the passage of this law, New York became the 36th state to have child endangerment laws with tougher DWI sanctions against drivers who put minors at risk.

What to do

If you are charged with a DWI and a violation of Leandra’s Law, or fear being charged, Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria can help. Our experienced DWI attorneys earned a top-tier ranking in criminal defense by U.S. News & World Report and are dedicated to providing a tough and effective DWI defense. We have in-depth knowledge of a client’s rights, the potential penalties that may arise, and the possible weaknesses in charges against a client. Lipsitz Green’s DWI & Arrest Guide App provides detailed information on rights and immediately sends alerts to our lawyers so that we can offer you prompt legal counsel and assistance.

This article does not purport to give legal advice and is for informational purposes only.