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New York's tougher DWI laws went into effect on November 1. One of the provisions includes the use of ignition interlocks, a device hooked up to the car's ignition system. Those convicted of DWI are required to install these devices on their vehicles and breathe into the breathalyzer apparatus in order for their car to start. If alcohol is detected on their breath, the car won't start. The law also increases penalties for those convicted of driving drunk with a minor in the car. Both provisions are a response to "Leandra's Law," first passed in 2009 and named after Leandra Rosado, 11. She lost her life while a passenger in a car driven by her friend's mother, who was legally intoxicated at the time of the fatal accident.

Those convicted of using a false ID and underage drinking will also face tougher sanctions under the new laws. Young people under 21 who buy and consume liquor using altered or fake identification cards must now complete twice the community service hours for their second offense. Instead of 30 hours, they now face 60. A third offense will garner 90 hours.

The increased use of interlocks is expected to deter those previously convicted of DWI from driving while drinking again, as well as prevent further accidents. The New York Department of Criminal Justice Services determined that over 70 percent of convicted drunk drivers have found ways to subvert the use of the interlock devices. Some have temporarily transferred ownership of their cars and trucks to friends or relatives. To prevent this, the new law requires offenders to take a sworn oath that they don't own a vehicle and will not be driving. Those caught driving drunk with a conditional license now will be facing a Class E felony that could land them in prison for four years.

The new law also allows restoration of driving privileges in six months as opposed to a year for those who elect to install and properly use the interlock devices. The goal is to curb recidivism in drunk drivers and promote safety and responsible driving.

Keeping abreast of changes in the laws and penalties governing drinking and driving is important so that you are never caught unaware. Should you find yourself facing DWI charges, the most important thing to do is retain competent counsel who can preserve your rights and challenge prosecutorial evidence.

Source: wgrz.com, "Tougher Laws Take Effect on Underage Drinking, DWI, Killing a Police Dog" Ashley Hupfl, Nov. 11, 2013

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