New York Governor David Paterson on Wednesday signed into law the toughest driving while intoxicated (DWI) legislation in the nation. The Child Passenger Protection Act, also called Leandra's Law, makes it a felony for individuals under the influence of drugs or alcohol to drive with children in the car."Too often drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs chose to compromise not only their own lives, but also the lives of our children. Today we say enough," said Paterson in a press release.
The state Senate passed the bill on a 58-0 vote Wednesday afternoon, and it was passed in the state Assembly on Tuesday.
Under the bill, a drunk driver with a child under 16 years old in the car could face up to four years in prison. If the child is killed while the driver is intoxicated, it will become a B felony and carry a 7- to 25-year prison sentence.
The law is named after Leandra Rosado, an 11-year-old girl who was killed last month when the car she was in crashed on the side of the West Side Highway. The driver, Carmen Huertas was intoxicated at the time and has been indicted on charges of manslaughter and drunk driving.
While we can all agree that drunk driving with a child in the vehicle is heinous you are more apt to be charged with this offense in Illinois during this holiday season. Perhaps just yesterday your whole family, kids included, loaded up and headed to someone else's house for Thanksgiving. Beer, wine and perhaps even a spiked eggnog were served right? You had a few right? Then you loaded the car back up and headed back home. You are perfectly set up to be charged with a DUI, because the kids are with you.
In Illinois, a person who is charged with a first DUI with a child under 16 as a passenger is subject to additional penalties, above and beyond those for a first time offender who is not transporting a child. Those additional penalties include being subject to 6 months jail and an additional mandatory minimum fine of $1,000 and 25 days community sevice in a program benefiting children pursuant to 625 ILCS 5/11-501 (c) (3).
If the child being transported suffers great bodily injury, the offense, even for a first time offender, is a Class 4 felony. That means the person could face 1-3 years in prison. 625 ILCS 5/11-501 (d)(1)(J).
It's a whole lot easier than you imagined to be charged with a DUI for driving with a child in the car. Make sure you have a designated driver during the holiday season. That means one who drinks nothing harder than what the kids are drinking that evening.