Leandra's Law (Child Passenger Protection Act) is a New York State law making it an automatic felony on the first offense to drive drunk with a person age 15 or younger inside the vehicle, and setting the blood alcohol content, or BAC, at 0.08. The bill was unanimously passed by the New York State Assembly and the New York State Senate and then signed into law by Gov. David Paterson on November 18, 2009.
Leandra Rosado, an 11 year old girl, was killed on the Henry Hudson Parkway in New York City on October 11, 2009 when her friend's mother, Carmen Huertas, flipped the car they were in while allegedly under the influence of alcohol. Six other children were also injured during the incident.
Pursuant to New York Vehicle Traffic Law Section 1192-2a, any person caught operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated and transporting a child shall be charged with a Class E Felony. In the event that reckless driving and death or serious physical injury is not a factor, an individual will automatically be charged with a class D felony. Defendants convicted under the new law face a prison sentence of up to four years and a fine of $1000–$5000. The installation of a mandatory ignition interlock device for a term of at least six months is also an expected provision of sentencing (mandatory for all DWI offenses August 15, 2010). Moreover, licenses are automatically suspended pending prosecution and once proven guilty, the person will be reported to the Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment and his/her license will be suspended for a minimum of twelve months. First time and repeat offenders are charged with an E level felony, regardless of criminal record.
Thomas Richardson of Rochester, New York was the first person arrested under this new law (People v. Richardson, Monroe County, 2010). He was arrested one day after the law went into effect while driving in the town of Greece. Richardson was accused of driving while intoxicated, with his 10-year old daughter riding on his lap. At trial, Richardson's attorney, Kevin McKain, argued that the police fabricated the charges. Following a three-day jury trial, Richardson was acquitted of the felony charge and a related charge of endangering the welfare of a child.
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