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New York teen charged with felonies under Leandra's Law

When drivers are found guilty of driving while under the influence in New York, even for a first misdemeanor offense, they must pay for the installation and maintenance of an interlock device. The state's Ignition Interlock Program requires the driver to provide a breathe sample before the engine will start. The device often includes a camera to provide photographic evidence of who is giving the sample.

Under the state's Leandra's Law passed in 2009, if that driver is found guilty of driving under the influence with youngsters 15 years of age or younger in the car - even if it's a first offense - the charge automatically becomes a felony. Last week the state senate strengthened the bond between the ignition interlock sentence and Leandra's Law. After discovering that some people convicted with DWI charges were avoiding the interlock system by claiming not to own a vehicle and/or transferring ownership of the car to a relative or friend, the new law prohibits those convicted of driving without one. In addition, if the accused does indeed not own a vehicle, the new law would require a transdermal alcohol monitor, like an ankle bracelet, to ensure sentences include some sort of alcohol monitoring.

Earlier this week, a 17-year-old boy was charged with multiple counts of aggravated DWI, two violations of Leandra's Law, and several other traffic charges including driving without a license and no license plate lamp. The boy was transporting a 14-yr-old and a 15-year-old in his car. After observing the vehicle swerving twice, deputies stopped the car. They reported they noticed the smell of marijuana coming from inside the car, though no evidence of drugs or paraphernalia was found. They also said they saw two Four Loko malt beverage cans on the floor of the vehicle. The report noted that the driver failed several field sobriety tests and reportedly had a blood alcohol content of 0.15 percent.

There are several questions that immediately come to mind with this case. 1) Where did the juveniles get the supposed alcohol and marijuana? 2) The company that makes Four Loko withdrew the product from New York in November 2010, so those cans could have been a year old. While this particular young man has obviously learned a tough lesson, this is his first offense. Perhaps he can avoid a record by attending a youth offender treatment program which is available to all defendants under the age of 19.

Source: Tonawanda News, "Teen facing Leandra's Law violation," March 27, 2012

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Glenn R. Bruno, Esq.