Print Posted By Law Offices of George Vomvolakis on 04/19/2017

What Happens if I'm Arrested for a DWI With Children in the Car?

What Happens if I'm Arrested for a DWI With Children in the Car?

According to New York’s Child Passenger Protection Act, which is informally known as Leandra’s Law, it is a crime to drive while intoxicated (DWI) when a child under the age of 15 years old is present. Those who are arrested for violating this law can be charged with an E felony, which is punishable by hefty fines and up to four years in state prison.

Leandra’s Law

Driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is considered a serious offense in New York, so the penalties for a conviction are always severe and can include jail time, probation, community service, and license suspension. However, the penalties for a violation of Leandra’s law are even more severe, as the law makes it an aggravated DWI to drive while under the influence of drugs or alcohol when a minor under the age of 15 years old is also in the vehicle. Under the terms of this law, those who are convicted of this offense will face the following consequences:
  • A mandatory term of probation or a conditional release;
  • An automatic driver’s license suspension pending official prosecution; and,
  • Mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device on any of their vehicles for at least six months.

Ignition interlock devices connect to a car’s ignition system and measure the alcohol content in the driver’s breath. Unless the driver provides a breath sample that is below the legal limit, the engine will not start. Drivers who violate Leandra’s law are required to keep these devices installed in all of the vehicles that they own or operate for at least six months, although the court can impose a longer time period.

Parents and guardians who are charged with driving while intoxicated while their child was a passenger in the car face even harsher penalties as they are automatically reported to the Statewide Central Register of Child Abuse and Maltreatment by law enforcement. This can have serious repercussions, including investigations by Child Protective Services, which could jeopardize any pending custody matters as well as the comfort and well-being of the children in the home.

Additional Penalties

When drivers cause the death of a child who was a passenger in the car and they were driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they must not only deal with the emotional consequences of their actions, but can also be charged with a Class B felony, which is punishable by a 25 year prison sentence. Those whose actions cause serious physical injury to a child are also heavily penalized and can be charged with a Class C felony, which can mean up to 15 years in prison.