The Party is Over for Drunk Drivers

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    NBCNewYork
    Blowing into the ignition interlock.

    Lenny Rosado wouldn't take no for an answer.

    "I asked state legislators, 'What if you were in my shoes?'" he said. "What if one of your kids or grandkids were killed by a drunk driver?"

    New York lawmakers were moved by the Bronx father's message. Late last year, they passed legislation that bears the name of Leandra Rosado -- the 11-year-old girl killed by in a drunk-driving accident on the Henry Hudson Parkway in October 2009.

    Starting this Sunday, Aug. 15,  a key element of "Leandra's law" takes effect.  From that day forward, anyone convicted of either misdemeanor or felony drunk driving -- even first-time offenders -- will be required to pay for the installation of an ignition interlock system in their car.

    Drivers with an ignition interlock must "blow" into it before taking to the road.  If they have a certain level of alcohol on their breath, the system will prevent the car from starting.

    "This is it. The party's over for drunk drivers," said Rosado.

    Rosado joined Governor Paterson, state lawmakers and the families of other DWI victims in Massapequa Park to herald the coming implementation of the ignition interlock requirement.

    "If Leandra's law had been in effect 21 years ago, I wouldn't be here today," said Denna Cohen of MADD, holding a photo of her 21 year old daughter who was killed by a repeat drunk driver.

    "There's a part of me that wondered why this took so long?" added Jennifer Flynn, whose seven year old daughter Katie was one of two people killed by a wrong way drunk driver in 2005, as the Flynn family returned from a wedding.

    Lawmakers credited victims' families with helping push through the legislation that will make New York one of ten states nationwide with  a first-offender interlock requirement.

    "These people have endured more pain than we can imagine," said Nassau prosecutor Maureen McCormick.  "Yet they overcame that pain to make changes."

    Under Leandra's law, interlocks can be ordered for a maximum of three years and if a driver tries to "beat" the system, that driver can be arrested again.

    A interlock device can cost up to $100 to install and will cost the DWI offender upwards of a $100 a month to maintain, according to state officials.

    But not everyone is happy about the new law.

    "It's overkill," insisted veteran Mineola defense lawyer Marc Gann. He predicted the ignition interlock requirement will be challenged in court. 

    "Most people who commit alcohol-related offenses do it only once. Statistics indicate two-thirds of offenders are one time offenders," added Gann.

    It's estimated 25,000 drivers a year will be required to install ignition interlocks in their cars, said state officials.

    Lenny Rosado is not apologizing.  He wants this to become a nationwide requirement.

    "If you do the crime, you have to do the time," said Rosado. "It's over."