The strongest influence on the change in prevalence of drunk driving deaths was a result of primary seat belt laws, as well as the position in which children were seated in the car. These findings suggest that it is not enough to have a child endangerment law in place. Additional efforts must be evaluated and implemented, including training of officers about the law, proper and consistent prosecution of the law, as well as efforts to change public attitudes and behaviors around transporting a child when one has been drinking alcohol. The panel also discussed how harsh laws caused an unfortunate backlash in which law enforcement and/or prosecutors and judges do not pursue charges or instead offer a plea to a lesser charge to avoid families being “ripped apart” by the actions of a caregiver. This unintended response to laws with strong penalties requires educating law enforcement, prosecutors and judges on why these laws exist. Information on current state statutes can be found at: madd.org/ChildEndangermentLaws. Leandra’s Law The Child Protection Act, otherwise known as Leandra’s Law, is a New York state law that makes the first offense an automatic felony when the driver has a BAC of .08 or higher and has a child who is 15 years or younger in the vehicle. The bill was passed unanimously by the state legislature and signed into law by the governor on November 18, 2009. MADD was instrumental in the passage of Leandra’s Law and uses it as a model in advocating for other states to adopt a similar law. Important Elements of Leandra’s Law • First time offenders may be charged with a class E felony punishable by up to four years in state prison. • Automatic suspension of driver’s license pending prosecution. • All drivers convicted of DUI must install an ignition interlock for at least six months, in addition to any term of imprisonment. • Probation issues regulations to provide counties with different options for supervising the use of interlocks to ensure that they can determine the most appropriate mechanism for their needs. • Offenders who cause the death of a child younger than 16 in the car may be charged with a Class B felony, punishable by up to 25 years in state prison. • Offenders who cause physical injury to a child in the vehicle may be charged with the Class C felony, punishable by up to 15 years in state prison. • Parents, guardians or custodians who are charged with DUI or Driving Under the Influence of Drugs (DUID) while that child is a passenger in the car would be reported to the Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment by the arresting agency. The efficacy of this law is still being determined. However, early evidence shows, and it is the opinion of the panel, that a law in and of itself is not effective without proper public awareness, enforcement and prosecution.
Leandra’s Law was named after Leandra Rosado, an 11-year-old girl who was killed on the Henry Hudson Parkway in New York City on October 11, 2009 when her friend’s mother, Carmen Huertas, lost control of the car they were in while under the influence of alcohol. The car, driving 68 miles per hour in a 50 mile per hour zone, flipped over on the highway. Six other children were also injured during the incident. Huertas pled guilty to all charges filed against her and was sentenced on October 29, 2010 to four to twelve years in prison.
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