New Drunk Driving Punishment of Breathalyzer Ignition Devices Raises Implementation Issues

At least 30 states have statutes that went into effect on New Years Day. One of them in New York, The Child Passenger Protection Act,will require all drunken-driving offenders to blow into a breathalyzer ignition device before they can operate their cars. An article in The New York Law Journal last week (Dec. 28) discussed how the new law will create additional responsibilities for courts sentencing those defendants, according to state officials and court administrators. For example, although most drivers will be required to pay for the devices themselves, it has not been decided who will pay for the devices for indigent defendants.

It costs about $100 for initial installation of the interlock equipment and about $3 a day for the monitoring necessary to ensure the drivers are not trying to thwart the mechanism or for GPS location of vehicles where results indicate drivers may be impaired. Under the law, all drivers convicted of misdemeanor or felony DWI offenses will be required to install and maintain an ignition interlock device that will prevent them from operating their motor vehicles if their blood alcohol level registers above 0.045 percent when they blow into a breathalyzer installed in their cars. If the devices detect any alcohol below the 0.045 percent level, the car may be driven, but the result is reported to designated officials.

In that case, motorists are usually instructed within five to 20 minutes to provide another breath sample. If a driver is impaired, police are automatically notified, and the driver is directed to pull over and turn off the engine.

The new law provides for installation of the breathalyzer devices for at least six months, with longer terms if aggravating factors are involved, such as repeat offenses or drivers being caught with extremely high blood-alcohol levels. The minimum would be in addition to any terms of imprisonment imposed on drivers. Instead of being a misdemeanor as under the old law, the new law makes drunken driving a Class E felony punishable by a prison sentence of 11/3 to four years when a youth under age 16 is in the vehicle.

The new law also creates stiffer penalties for impaired drivers involved in accidents where young passengers are hurt or killed. It also requires reporting of an adult caught driving drunk with a youth in the car to the state’s registry of abused or maltreated children. The penalty provisions of the law went into effect on December 18, but the requirement of the breathalyzer ignition device will not become effective until August 15, 2010, to give the courts and law enforcement agencies time to implement the new requirement. Installation of the devices is already mandatory for a limited number of more serious drinking and-driving offenses. About 2,100 are in use in New York.

Impetus for Child Passenger Protection Act came from fatal accidents involving Diane Schuler on the Taconic State Parkway and Carmen Huertas on the Henry Hudson Parkway where children were essentially captives in vehicles being driven by adults the children knew had something wrong with them.

The new law has been dubbed Leandra’s Law, named for Leadra Rosado, 11, who was killed inthat October crashon the Henry HudsonParkwayas she was being brought to a sleepover with six other children. The driver was accused of driving drunk and charged with manslaughter. Eight people, including four children died in a July crash that was apparently caused by an impaired, wrong-way driver on the Taconic Parkway in Westchester County. The use of cell phones and texting while driving have become major social safety issues. Distracted driving has become almost as much as a concern as drunk driving. Four bills are pending in Congress that would push the states to regulate various types of cellphone use by drivers, including banning texting, requiring hands-free devices or prohibiting motorists under the age of 21 from using any devices. Well see what new laws pass during 2010.

The lawyers at Levine & Slavit have decades of experience handling personal injury claims including those involving auto accidents. For over 50 years spanning 3 generations, we have obtained results for satisfied clients. We have offices in Manhattan and Long Island, handling cases in New York City, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and surrounding areas. If you or someone close to you has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, contact the personal injury lawyers at Levine & Slavit for their help. To learn more, watch our videos.

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