New Stricter DWI Laws Since 2010

A. Leandra’s Law

On November 28, 2009 the NYS Legislature passed Leandra’s Law.

The law was proposed in direct response to the death of 11 year old Leandra Rosado, who died tragically on the way home from a friend’s birthday party in October 2009 at the hands of a severely intoxicated motorist.

Leandra’s Law is one of the most Draconian Laws ever issued against drunk driving in the country. It includes the following provisions:

  1. It is now a felony to drive in an intoxicated state with a child under the age of 15; (even for first offenders); and
  2. Beginning on August 15, 2010, all drivers convicted of misdemeanor or felony DWI will be required to install an interlock device, which will prevent the car from starting if any alcohol is detected on the driver’s breath. The defendant must pay himself for this expensive device; and
  3. A first offender will face a possible prison sentence of 1 1/3 to 4 years. The toughest sentence for a DWI related first offense in the nation.
B. The Civil Forfeiture Law

The Westchester County Board of Legislators adopted a civil forfeiture law which will take effect on December 15, 2010.

Under this new law, (which is already utilized in other NYS counties) any motorist convicted of a DWI related offense on a Westchester County public road may have their cars confiscated, possibly permanently.

The Westchester County civil forfeiture law also applies to motorists convicted of engaging in speed contests (drag racing).

Fortunately there are exceptions, including the “Innocent Owner’ defense, i.e. that an owner did not have notice that the vehicle would be used to commit a crime and took reasonable steps to prevent it.

A forfeiture proceeding may only arise out of a lawful stop by a Westchester County Police Officer (the law may not be enacted for stops made by the New York State Police).

The is also a possibility of obtaining Hardship Relief if the motorist can show that the forfeiture of his/her car would result in a substantial and unwarranted hardship and the owner lacks adequate access to public transportation.

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