Drunk driving ranges from a mild traffic offense to a criminal felony offense depending on in which state you get pulled over and the circumstances surrounding your arrest. In New York, a drunk driving offense can quickly turn into a felony if you had a child passenger in your vehicle at the time of the stop. This is thanks to New York’s child endangerment drunk driving law, Leandra’s Law.  

Mothers Against Drunk Driving has dubbed Leandra’s Law the “Model Child Endangerment Law.” The law, which New York enacted in November of 2009, was the first of its kind to make drunk driving with a minor passenger a felony offense. Several states since have followed suit.  

Though there are several provisions of this law, there are a few key provisions which MADD has chosen to highlight. For one, the state may charge first time DUI offenders who had a child passenger 16 years of age or younger in the vehicle at the time of the traffic stop with a class E felony. In New York, a class E felony carries a punishment of up to four years in prison.

If a drunk driver causes the death of a child passenger who is younger than 16 years of age, the state may charge him or her with a class B felony. A class B felony carries with it a punishment of up to 25 years in prison. If the drunk driver’s recklessness causes the injury of a child passenger, he or she may face a class C felony, which carries a prison sentence of up to 15 years.

In addition to prison time, the state will revoke parental, guardian or custody rights of any person who is responsible for a child and who drives with that child while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In these situations, the agency for child abuse and mistreatment will become involved.

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