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Occasionally a law will be passed with a name intended to memorialize a person whose circumstances gave rise to its passage. This is the case with Leandra's Law in New York, which was enacted in 2009 to strengthen penalties for drunk driving convictions in this state. Leandra Rosado, for whom the law is named, was an 11-year-old girl who was killed in a drunk driving accident.

The significance of Leandra's Law lies in two areas: toughened penalties for anyone who drives while intoxicated when a minor under the age of 16 is in the car, and the imposition of ignition interlock device requirements for first-time drunk driving offenders.

Aggravated DWI penalty: Leandra's Law makes operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs a Class E felony.

Ignition interlock device requirement: With the passage of Leandra's Law, New York became one of 10 states in the United States to require even first-time drunk driving offenders to have an ignition interlock device on any vehicle these people own or operate. It does not matter whether the conviction was for misdemeanor or felony DWI; the ignition interlock device is required in all cases.

The function of an ignition interlock device is to require a driver to provide a breath sample to measure his or her breath alcohol content. The device records data including how many times the driver tried to start the car, the breath alcohol content each time, and how long the car was driven.

The general time frame for the ignition interlock device to remain in a vehicle is 12 months, although the court apparently has discretion to shorten this to six months. In addition to having the device installed, the convicted person's driver license will also be required to have an "interlock device" restriction placed on it, even if the license is revoked.

You can only have the ignition interlock device requirement removed from your license when you are provided with a specific form stating that you are no longer required to have the device in your vehicle. Removal requires going to the state department of motor vehicles to apply for a new license.

If you are ever charged with drunk driving in New York, retaining counsel familiar with the relevant laws is important to maximize your chances of having the best possible outcome under your specific circumstances.

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