Assemblyman Skoufis Strengthens Penalties on Drunk Drivers

Assemblyman James Skoufis (D-Woodbury) announced that legislation he supported that strengthens Leandra’s Law was signed into law (Chp.169 of 2013). Under Leandra’s Law, individuals convicted of driving under the influence are barred from driving a vehicle unless it is equipped with an ignition interlock device, which prevents a car from starting if it detects that the driver has ingested alcohol. This restriction is recorded on the driver’s DMV record, and it is deemed a criminal offense to drive without the mandatory interlock.

“Driving under the influence puts everyone at risk and it only takes a split second to ruin or end someone’s life.” Assemblyman Skoufis said “This tough new law sends a strong message that we will not tolerate drunk driving.”

Additionally, the law requires that a person found driving a vehicle with a conditional license while drunk or impaired will be charged with first degree aggravated unlicensed operation (AUO) of a motor vehicle, a class E felony. The legislation also ensures that young offenders will also be subject to ignition interlock requirements. All offenders will be subject to ignition interlock requirements for a minimum period of 12 months initially, with a reduction to six months after the offender has submitted proof that the he or she installed and maintained the ignition interlock device for at least six months. This provision is intended to increase the number of individuals who actually use the devices.

There has been an approximately 18 percent decrease in alcohol-related crashes in New York State from 2005-2011 due largely in part to initiatives such as aggravated DWI, mandatory alcohol assessments and Leandra’s Law (Chapter 496 of 2009). This law makes it an automatic felony on the first offense to drive drunk with a person aged 15 years or younger inside the vehicle.