Governor David Paterson joined county and state officials, as well as families who've been affected by drunk driving, at the Police Academy in Massapequa Park Thursday to announce a new provision of Leandra's Law.
The new provision, which takes effect Sunday, will require ignition interlock devices to be installed for all individuals convicted of felony or misdemeanor drunk-driving charges. The devices operate like breathalyzers and require drivers to breathe into it before starting the car. If the device detects an unsafe blood-alcohol level, the car will not start.
"We hope this will expand our ability to keep our community safe," Paterson said. "And really send a strong message to those who have been irresponsible in the past, to cease and desist from their conduct which causes lifelong tragedies to families."
The provision will apply to everyone, even first-time offenders who were not driving with a child under 16.
Leandra's Law already makes it an automatic felony on the first offense to drive drunk with a person under the age of 15 in the vehicle.
Paterson signed Leandra's Law on Nov. 18, 2009, less than six weeks after 11-year-old Leandra Rosado died from injuries she sustained when the SUV she was riding in – driven by a woman who was allegedly drunk – crashed on the Henry Hudson Parkway in Manhattan.
The new provision makes New York one of only ten states that makes it mandatory for first offenders to have ignition interlock devices.
"We hope this can be a nationwide law," said Leandra's father, Lenny Rosado, who said he spoke to President Obama and will be going to the White House on Sept. 20 to try and get the law implemented nationwide. "I'll be holding in my heart the children who have lost their lives," he said.
Those convicted of drunk driving can be ordered to use the Interlocks for a minimum of six months and up to a maximum of three years for a misdemeanor conviction and up to five years for a felony conviction. The device costs between $75 and $100 to install, and holds a monthly fee ranging from $70 to $100, which will be paid for by the convicted drivers, not tax payers, authorities said
Sen. Charles Fuschillo (R-Merrick) said he thinks the law will work because judges will not have the chance to let offenders off the hook with lighter charges or probation.
"The judges have no discretion here – it's mandatory," he said. "And that's the key to this. If we have to change the other laws and make it mandatory, and take away the judicial discretion for some of those, that are too lenient for the murderers on our streets, then [lawmakers] will do that."
Statistics cited by the group Mothers Against Drunk Driving show that states with ignition interlock requirements experience a 35 percent drop in fatal alcohol-related crashes.
Since Leandra's Law was put into effect in 2009, there have been 392 arrests reported under the law. Out of 152 counties in New York, Nassau County has the third most Leandra's Law arrests, with a total of 25.