Driving while intoxicated, otherwise known as drunk driving, has always been a felony. However, in recent times this offense has seen a marked increase, and many states have reacted by imposing stiffer criminal penalties to address the issue.
The state of New York is no exception. Under New York state laws, it is a criminal offense to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content-concentration (BAC) level of 0.08% or more. Additionally, drivers of commercial vehicles with a blood alcohol content-concentration level of 0.04% or more are also criminally liable under the law. Minors (persons under the age of twenty-one) who drive with a BAC of 0.02% or more are also guilty of the same charge.
The penalties applied if found guilty of any of the above offenses vary with regards to the level of intoxication and the regularity of offense. For those persons being convicted of their first driving while intoxicated charge, the penalties may range from a fine of five hundred to one thousand dollars, up to one year imprisonment, and their drivers’ licenses being revoked for a minimum of six months. Repeat offenders however, could find themselves facing up to ten thousand dollars in fines, as much as seven years of imprisonment, and having their licenses revoked for a minimum of one year.
However, one of the toughest New York laws related to driving while intoxicated was signed into law in November of 2009. The new law is called Leandra’s law, and it addresses not just the issue of drunk driving, but driving drunk with a minor in the vehicle. The law, also known as the Child Passenger Protection Act, came about as a result of a horrific accident that claimed the life of eleven year old Leandra Rosado as she was on her way to a sleepover with a group of other girls. The driver, who was the mother of one of the girls was reportedly intoxicated and, as such, lost control of the vehicle, flipping it on the Henry Hudson Parkway.
Under the tenets of Leandra’s Law, first time offenders driving with a BAC of 0.08 or more, with passengers fifteen years old or younger, will face stricter penalties, including the possibility of being charged with a Class E felony and serving up to four years in prison. Those convicted of causing serious injury to a child will be found guilty of a Class C felony and subject to up to fifteen years in prison, while those whose drunk driving results in the death of a child, will be guilty of a Class B felony that carries a maximum prison sentence of up to twenty-five years.
It is hoped that these new tougher sanctions will lead to a decline in drunk driving incidents and accidents in the State of New York.