By: Passalacqua & Associates

Syracuse’s Leandra’s Law: Child Endangerment and DWI Offenses

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What is Leandra’s Law?

Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is usually a misdemeanor in New York, but if a child who is 15 or younger is in the vehicle when the police stop a driver for DWI, that motorist will be charged with a felony, and he or she will need to be advised and defended by a Syracuse DWI attorney.

Leandra’s Law took effect in New York in 2009. It makes driving while intoxicated with a child in the vehicle a Class E felony, and it requires anyone who is convicted of a misdemeanor or felony DWI charge to install and maintain an ignition interlock device in his or her vehicle.

The law is named for Leandra Rosado, who was killed at the age of 11 when her friend’s mother lost control of the car they were in while driving under the influence. Six other children were also injured during the incident in 2009 on the Henry Hudson Parkway in New York City.

How Serious is New York’s DWI Problem?

Law enforcement officers in every state aggressively enforce DWI and DUI laws. Nevertheless, as of 2024, intoxicated drivers still cause more than 17,000 deaths every year across the United States. That’s an average of one death every half-hour and 310 funerals every week.

In the State of New York, more than 7,000 alcohol-related traffic accidents were reported in 2022. Those accidents resulted in 335 fatalities – a thirty percent increase over the 262 alcohol-related traffic fatalities in this state in 2019.

Lawmakers in this state are continuing to pursue new legal solutions to reduce incidents of intoxicated driving. Many New York lawmakers advocate better education about intoxicated driving combined with more severe penalties for convicted DWI offenders.

What Are New York’s DWI Laws?

Drivers in New York with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level at or over 0.08 percent may be arrested and charged with DWI. A first DWI offense is usually a misdemeanor punishable upon conviction with jail time, a fine, and a six-month driver’s license suspension.

Even aggravated DWI, which is the charge when a driver’s BAC level is measured at or over 0.18 percent, is charged as a misdemeanor when it is someone’s first offense, unless the driver is also in violation of Leandra’s Law and has a child who is 15 or younger as a passenger.

A second DWI or aggravated DWI conviction within ten years of a first conviction on either charge will be prosecuted as a Class E felony, which may be penalized upon conviction with a fine, a driver’s license revocation, community service, probation, and/or a jail or prison sentence.

How Are DWI Cases Handled?

If you are charged with any DWI violation in or near the Syracuse area, seeking to have the charge against you reduced or dismissed will probably be the first step that your Syracuse DWI lawyer takes on your behalf.

The court may dismiss a DWI case when the state’s evidence is inadequate, but such cases are rare. However, your lawyer may arrange a plea deal that lets you plead guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for agreeing to serve a reduced or alternative sentence.

However, if you are innocent of driving while intoxicated, you should exercise your right to demand a jury trial, where your Syracuse DWI attorney will cast doubt on the state’s case and clarify for the jurors why they should find you not guilty.

What Will a DWI Attorney Do for You?

If you are charged with DWI in the Syracuse area, your attorney will review the details of the charge against you, investigate what actually occurred, and develop an appropriate strategy for your defense.

Breath and blood tests to measure a driver’s BAC level are often unreliable. Blood samples are easily contaminated, and breathalyzers must be maintained and calibrated frequently. Your lawyer may challenge the test results or the credentials of the officer who administered your test.

If police officers violated your rights – for instance, if your vehicle was unlawfully searched or if the police stopped you in traffic without probable cause – your DWI lawyer will ask the court for a dismissal of the case or file a motion to suppress any evidence that was unlawfully obtained.

What Else Should You Know About Leandra’s Law?

Along with requiring convicted DWI offenders to install ignition interlock devices in their personal vehicles and making it a Class E felony to drive while intoxicated when a child is a passenger, Leandra’s Law also provides the following:

  1.  Intoxicated drivers in New York who cause the death of a child under 16 years old in the vehicle may be charged with a Class B felony, punishable upon conviction with up to 25 years in prison.
  2.  Intoxicated drivers in New York who cause serious physical injury to a child under 16 years old in the vehicle may be charged with a Class C felony, punishable upon conviction with up to 15 years in prison.
  3.  Police agencies in New York must report – to the Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment – a guardian or parent who has been charged with driving while intoxicated with a child under 16 years old in the vehicle.

If you are charged with a violation of Leandra’s Law or with any other DWI violation in or near the Syracuse area, how can you find the right attorney – a Syracuse DWI lawyer who will aggressively and effectively advocate for the justice you need?

Passalacqua & Associates Will Fight for the Justice You Need

You must have the right DWI lawyer if you are charged with a violation of Leandra’s Law or with any other DWI violation in the Syracuse area. At Passalacqua & Associates, we have over three decades of experience defending DUI suspects and prevailing on their behalf.

If you are charged with DWI, Passalacqua & Associates offers an in-depth evaluation of your case – with no obligation or cost. You’ll learn more about your rights and options as a DWI defendant, and you’ll find out how New York’s DWI laws will apply to your own case.

If you are charged with violating Leandra’s Law or with any other DWI violation, now or in the future, the consequences of a conviction could be catastrophic for your family, your career, and your life. Get the help you need by promptly calling Passalacqua & Associates at 315-277-3548.