Leandra's Law: cause and effect

It's the tragic irony of laws named after children the AMBER Alert, Adam's Law, Amanda's Law that they come too late to protect the ones for which they are named.

Leandra's Law is New York state's latest attempt to protect minors from intoxicated drivers. The law was prompted by a 2009 Downstate motor vehicle crash that killed 11-year-old Leandra Rosado. A family friend who was driving the vehicle was determined to have been drinking.

The law, officially called the Child Passenger Protection Act, enhances the sentence for individuals convicted of operating a motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.08 or greater and carrying a passenger 15 years of age or younger. Under the act, the standard DWI charge is upgraded from a misdemeanor to a felony, punishable by up to four years in prison and a fine of $5,000.

Staff Sgt. Lenny Crouch, administrator of the Albany County Stop-DWI program, said the law has the potential to protect children, however, as yet, none of the cases brought against alleged offenders has been resolved.

"Punishment needs to fit the crime and also needs to be done in a timely manner so people can associate the punishment with the crime," said Crouch.

The law was passed during November's special session of the New York State Legislature and went into effect on Friday, Dec. 18. At that time, the Albany County Stop-DWI Program conducted a DWI blanket patrol that would yield nine arrests, including Eileen Joyce, a 52-year-old doctor from Voorheesville, who became the first person in the state charged under Leandra's Law, just one day after it went into effect.

Joyce was stopped while driving home from a Saturday, Dec. 19, performance of "Wicked" at Proctors with two adult passengers and a 7-year-old passenger " the daughter of one of the adults in the car. Police said Joyce was stopped after committing a series of traffic infractions along Western Avenue and Route 155. According to police, Joyce failed subsequent field sobriety tests and was arrested for common-law DWI. A chemical test given at police headquarters would place Joyce's BAC at 0.14.

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