For immediate release: Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011
PR #17-2011

Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee awards $3 million for counties
to offset ignition interlock monitoring costs under Leandra’s Law

New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services to administer grants to localities

New York State will continue to reimburse counties for a portion of the costs they incur by monitoring convicted drunk drivers who are required to install ignition interlock devices under a provision of the state’s Child Passenger Protection Act.

The Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC) has awarded $3 million to the state Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) to fund the reimbursement; this is the second consecutive year that funds have been made available to offset a portion of these monitoring costs.

“Keeping impaired drivers off of our highways is a high priority for us,” said GTSC Chair and Commissioner of Motor Vehicles Barbara J. Fiala.  “We congratulate the DCJS and the agencies that monitor those who are required to have interlock devices placed on their vehicles for the important role they play in helping to keep New York’s highways safe.”

Added DCJS Deputy Commissioner Robert M. Maccarone, who also serves as director of the agency’s Office of Probation and Correctional Alternatives: “The funds provided to localities through the Governor’s Highway Traffic Safety Committee will ensure that persons convicted of DWI offenses are properly monitored and supervised in accordance with the conditions ordered by the courts, resulting in safer highways throughout New York State.”

Ignition interlock devices make it impossible for someone under the influence of alcohol to start a vehicle. A driver must blow into the device; if even trace amounts of alcohol are detected, the vehicle will not start. The Child Passenger Protection Act, also known as Leandra’s Law, took effect Dec. 18, 2009, and has two key provisions:

  • The first makes it a felony to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs with a child under the age of 16 in the vehicle.
  • The second, effective Aug. 15, 2010, requires that anyone convicted of a misdemeanor or felony drunk driving charge – even first-time offenders and regardless of whether a child under 16 was in the car at the time of the offense – be subject to ignition interlock installation.

The law also requires counties to designate agencies responsible for monitoring drivers ordered by the court to install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles. In most cases, county Probation Departments serve that function, but some counties have designated other agencies and organizations, such as STOP-DWI programs and District Attorney’s offices, to handle the responsibility.

To be eligible for the grant funds, county Probation Departments and other monitoring entities must report their ignition interlock caseloads to DCJS. Counties received a total of $2.09 million under the first grant, which ran from Oct. 1, 2010, through Sept. 30, 2011. The new grant funds will be disbursed beginning early next year.

Statewide, 5,775 convicted drunk drivers installed ignition interlock devices in their vehicles from Aug. 15, 2010, through Sept. 30, 2011, the most recent timeframe for which statistics are available. An interlock device costs between $75 and $100 to install, coupled with a monthly fee ranging from $70 to $100. Those costs are incurred by the convicted drunk driver.

A total of 1,678 arrests have been made statewide under Leandra’s Law through Nov. 22, 2011.

New York is one of 41 states and the District of Columbia that have special child endangerment laws that impose tougher sanctions against individuals who place a child passenger at risk while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The state is also one of 14 states with mandatory, first-offender ignition interlock laws, and one of a few to require monitoring and supervision of offenders who must install the device.

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Contact: Jessica Scaperotti or Janine Kava
               (518) 457-8828
               www.facebook.com/nyspublicsafety