Make no mistake. New York DWI / DUI laws have just gotten significantly harsher. In fact, pursuant to New York Vehicle and Traffic Law (VTL) section 1192.2-a(b) / 1192(2a)(b), otherwise know as Leandra’s Law, a misdemeanor Driving While Intoxicated is “bumped up” to a felony offense if you perpetrate the “drunk driving” crimes of VTL 1192.2, VTL 1192.3, VTL 1192.4 or VTL 1192.4(a) and a child 15 years old or younger is in that vehicle.
More specifically, one can be charged with felony DWI / DUI pursuant to VTL 1192.2-a(b) / VTL 1192(2a)(b) when that person either has a BAC of .08 or greater, is intoxicated due to drug or alcohol ingestion or is “common law” DWI. Although often more difficult to prove due to the lack of scientific evidence, “common law” DWI refers to cases where an individual does not give a reading or sample of breath, urine or blood, but the police articulate the individual’s intoxication due to certain characteristics such as unsteadiness on one’s feet, slurred speech, the smell of alcohol, and watery-blood shot eyes, etc.
Leandra’s Law allows for a sentence of up to 1 and 1/3 to 4 years in state prison as well as fines ranging between $1,000 to $5,000. Other potential sentences include probation, community service, a drunk driving program and obviously restitution in the event damage is done to another’s property.
Before Leandra’s Law was available to the prosecution, prosecutors often charged individuals who drove drunk with children in their car with misdemeanor DWI along with misdemeanor Endangering the Welfare of a Child and either felony or misdemeanor Reckless Endangerment if applicable. Endangering the Welfare of a Child as well as misdemeanor Reckless Endangerment is punishable by up to one year in jail while felony Reckless Endangerment is punishable by up to 2 and 1/3 to 7 years in prison. It is important to note that these crimes can still be charged along with VTL 1192.2-a(b) / VTL 1192(2a)(b).