Photo Courtesy: Associated Press
By Ashley Hupfl
ALBANY New laws take effect Friday that will increase penalties for drinking underage, using a fake ID and driving drunk with a child in the car.
Other law that start Friday include making it "a class E felony to throw, toss or expel the contents of a toilet on a correctional facility employee."
The state is bolstering "Leandra's Law," which in 2009 was enacted to stiffen penalties for drunk drivers who had a child in the vehicle.
The new law strengthens the requirement that convicted drunk drivers use ignition interlocks, which are breathalyzers that connect to the car's ignition system. The driver must breath into the breathalyzer to start the car and if they have been drinking, the car will not start.
The law was passed in 2009 after 11 year-old Leandra Rosado was killed during a car accident because her friend's mother was driving intoxicated in New York City.
"Ignition interlocks are a proactive way to keep convicted drunk drivers from operating a vehicle while intoxicated again. Strengthening Leandra's Law to ensure more drunk drivers use ignition interlocks will save lives, prevent tragedies, and make our roads safer for everyone," Sen. Charles Fuschillo Jr., R-Nassau County, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said in a statement.
The state Department of Criminal Justice Services found earlier this year that more than 70 percent of DWI offenders have found ways to avoid using ignition interlocks. Under the new law, DWI offenders who install ignition interlocks and use them properly may restore their licenses in six months, rather than one year for those who don't.
A common way to avoid the ignition interlock is for DWI offenders to transfer ownership of their vehicle to a friend temporarily. DWI offenders will now have to swear under oath they are not a vehicle owner and will not drive; they can be charged with additional crimes if they are found driving.
DWI offenders who are caught driving with a conditional license while drunk will be charged with a Class E felony; offenders can face up to four years in prison.
"Certainly, harsher DWI laws are called for," said Robert Sinclair, an AAA spokesman in New York. "Penalties can't be too severe, especially for recidivists. If you talk to our traffic-safety educators, they'll tell you if we can get people to wear seat belts, we could eliminate half the injuries and deaths that take place on our nation's roadways."
Also going into effect Friday, someone under the age of 21 who uses a fake ID to buy alcoholic beverages would face double the community service hours on a second offense, from 30 hours to 60 hours. If someone is charged for the third time, that person faces up to 90 hours of community service.
In July, Gov. Andrew Cuomo also signed legislation to increase the charges against a person who kills a police dog or horse in the line of duty. Currently a Class A misdemeanor, the crime will be a Class E felony when the law takes effect Friday. State lawmakers approved the measure earlier this year after a police dog was killed while investigating a multiple shooting in Herkimer County last March.
Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther, D-Forestburgh, Sullivan County, sponsored legislation that takes effect Friday that will charge a prisoner who throws the contents of a toilet bowl on an employee with aggravated harassment, a felony.
The legislation was introduced after an inmate in Sullivan County emptied a toilet bowl onto a corrections officer. But it was later determined that the toilet did not contain human waste, so the inmate could not be charged. The law only had punished prisoners' attempts to cause employees to come into contact with certain bodily fluids.