For Immediate Release: 5/8/2017
Albany County Training Launches DWI-Ignition Interlock Enforcement Initiative
New York State program provides training for police, probation and prosecutors
Albany County one of three sharing a $100,000 state grant to fund training and enforcement activities
New York State today hosted training that will help police, probation officers and prosecutors in Albany County catch convicted drunk drivers who break the law by operating vehicles without ignition interlock devices or by circumventing or tampering with the devices so they don’t work.
The training and a subsequent DWI enforcement effort is part of a three-county program funded through a $100,000 grant from the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC). Albany County was the first of three to participate in the training this year, which was developed by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services. Other trainings are scheduled for law enforcement in Ontario and Orange counties later this month.
The goal is to increase compliance with the state’s DWI laws, while helping law enforcement identify and arrest those individuals attempting to operate a motor vehicle without a court-ordered interlock device. In addition to the training, the grant also funds overtime costs for law enforcement, allowing agencies in each county to conduct targeted sweeps aimed at catching offenders between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
More than two dozen law enforcement professionals from the following agencies attended the training this morning in Albany: the Colonie and Guilderland police departments, and the District Attorney’s Office, Probation Department and Sheriff’s Office from Albany County.
Interlock devices are installed on the ignition of a vehicle in order to prevent the operator from starting it if they’ve been drinking. An individual must first blow into the device, which can then prevent the vehicle from starting if the presence of alcohol is detected.
Individuals convicted of drunk driving must install an ignition interlock device installation on any vehicle they intend to operate as a result of Leandra’s Law, which also makes it a felony to drive drunk with a child under 16 in the vehicle. The law took effect in December 2009 and is named in memory of 11-year-old Leandra Rosado, a passenger in an SUV who died when the vehicle’s intoxicated driver crashed on the Henry Hudson Parkway in New York City.
Michael C. Green, executive deputy commissioner of the state Division of Criminal Justice Services, said, “The law is simple. If you’ve been convicted of DWI, you must drive an interlock-equipped motor vehicle. Yet there are some irresponsible motorists who try to circumvent the law, which ultimately places the public at risk. This program reinforces our strong partnership with law enforcement and our continued commitment to providing them the training, funding and support they need to help better protect their communities from drunk drivers.
Terri Egan, executive deputy commissioner of the state Department of Motor Vehicles and acting GTSC chair, said, “Leandra’s Law was an important step in reducing drunk driving while protecting our children and all those who use our roads. By training officers on how to make sure impaired drivers are not circumventing the law, we are in turn keeping dangerous drivers off the road. We do this for Leandra Rosado and for all our children.”
Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy said, "Convicted drunk drivers who try to circumvent using a court-ordered ignition interlock device pose a risk to everyone else on our roads. This training and the enforcement that will follow – thanks to our partnership with New York State –will help us hold these drivers accountable.”
The Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee and Division of Criminal Justice Services developed the program after recognizing an increasing number of charges brought against individuals violating the ignition interlock provision of Leandra’s Law. Arrests more than quadrupled from 2011 to 2016: There were 817 charges in 2011, as compared with 3,726 in 2016, according to statistics from the state Department of Motor Vehicles.
The state first offered the training and funding last year, with Dutchess, Onondaga and Oneida counties participating. More than 70 law enforcement professionals from those counties were trained and their enforcement efforts resulted in 66 arrests, including 29 motorists who were charged with failing to comply with court-ordered ignition interlock device.
Under the Leandra’s Law, judges are required to order all drivers convicted of misdemeanor or felony drunk driving charges to install and maintain ignition interlock devices on any vehicles they own or operate for at least six months at their own expense.
Individuals who attest under oath that they have sold or transferred title to their vehicles – and as a result aren’t ordered to install the device – still have the ignition interlock condition on their New York driver’s license and DMV license file. These individuals are still prohibited from driving a vehicle without an interlock, but some continue to do so in violation of Leandra’s Law.
The law also makes it illegal to tamper with or circumvent an ignition interlock device. Individuals may face jail time if convicted of any offense under the law. In addition, individuals on probation may be charged with a violation of their sentence if charged with an ignition interlock offense.
More than 111,000 convicted drunk drivers have been sentenced under the interlock provision of Leandra’s Law since its effective date of Aug. 15, 2010 through 2016. About 27 percent of these individuals installed the devices within the quarter of the year they were ordered to do so; roughly another 13 percent did so after their driving privileges were restored.
The New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (www.criminaljustice.ny.gov) is a criminal justice support agency with a variety of responsibilities, including law enforcement training; collection and analysis of statewide crime data; maintenance of criminal history information and fingerprint files; administrative oversight of the state's DNA databank, in partnership with the New York State Police; funding and oversight of probation and community correction programs; administration of federal and state criminal justice funds; and administration of the state’s Sex Offender Registry.
The Governor's Traffic Safety Committee (www.safeny.ny.gov) coordinates traffic safety activities in the state. The Committee awards federal highway safety grant funds to local, state and not-for-profit agencies for projects to improve highway safety and reduce deaths and serious injuries due to crashes.