Thiele Strengthens Leandra’s Law

Measure reduces number of drunk drivers by tightening mandatory ignition interlock requirements

Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. (I, D, WF-Sag Harbor) announced the Assembly passed legislation he sponsored that strengthens Leandra’s Law to ensure safer roads through greater use of ignition interlocks (A.2285-A). Ignition interlocks are breath test devices that prevent cars from starting if the driver is intoxicated.

“While the Assembly Majority has consistently fought for laws to keep drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel, we must keep looking for ways to strengthen our DWI laws and protect families from senseless tragedies,” Assemblyman Thiele said. “Drunk driving can ruin or end someone’s life in the blink of an eye. By tightening up the historic Leandra’s Law passed in 2009, we can stop more convicted drunk drivers from making reckless decisions that put innocent lives in danger.”

The measure would require that a person found driving a vehicle with a conditional license while drunk or impaired would be charged with first degree aggravated unlicensed operation (AUO) of a motor vehicle, a class E felony. The legislation also clarifies that young offenders would be subject to ignition interlock requirements. All offenders would be subject to ignition interlock requirements for a minimum period of 12 months initially, with a reduction to six months after the offender has submitted proof that the he or she installed and maintained the ignition interlock device for at least six months. This provision is intended to increase the number of individuals who actually use the devices.

There has been an approximately 18 percent decrease in alcohol-related crashes in New York State from 2005-2011 due largely in part to initiatives such as aggravated DWI, mandatory alcohol assessments and Leandra’s Law (Chapter 496 of 2009). This law makes it an automatic felony on the first offense to drive drunk with a person aged 15 years or younger inside the vehicle.

Additionally, under Leandra’s Law, individuals convicted of driving under the influence are barred from driving a vehicle unless it is equipped with an ignition interlock device, which prevents a car from starting if it detects that the driver has ingested alcohol. This restriction is recorded on the driver’s DMV record, and it is deemed a criminal offense to drive without the mandatory interlock.