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Driving Drunk with Child in Car is Now Felony in New York
New York governor David Paterson signed a bill called Leandra’s Law on Wednesday, making it a felony to drive drunk with a child in the car.
Lenny Rosado, the father of 11-year-old Leandra Rosado, who was killed in a drunk-driving accident last month, broke down in tears after the Senate voted 58-0 to pass the legislation.
"These are the types of penalties that this state has need for a long time," said Paterson, who inked the bill just hours after the Senate approved it.
"My daughter’s name and Leandra’s Law will save lives from here on," Rosado said.
Kenneth Lovett of the New York Daily News writes that the signing concluded a lightning-quick turnaround after the bill, considered one of the toughest in the nation, had stalled for weeks in the Democrat-controlled Assembly.
Earlier in the day, just before the Senate voted on it, Rosado said the law will help him begin to move on from his only child’s death.
Police say the Rosados’ family friend Carmen Huertas was driving drunk on the Henry Hudson Parkway when she lost control, killing Leandra Rosado.
"It takes away half the pain," said Rosado, who lobbied the Legislature tirelessly in recent weeks.
"The next step is when Carmen Huertas is on trial and I get to look at her and hopefully see her convicted of all charges. That day will be a day I can let a lot of myself go and probably move on," he said.
"I’ll look up in the sky and tell my daughter we accomplished two things—your law and seeing this lady do the time for the crime."
In addition to making it a felony to drive drunk with a child aged 15 or under in the car, the law will also require ignition locks for any convicted drunk driver.
"It’s a big sense of relief," Rosado told the Daily News, which campaigned for passage of Leandra’s Law.
"This is going to make a difference to save lives. I wish it didn’t happen the way it did, but we turned a tragedy into a little bit of a positive,” he said.
After taking heat from Rosado, advocates, and The Daily News’ campaign, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver announced late Monday night he would pass the tougher bill.
Sen. Charles Fuschillo (R-L.I.) and Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Martin Dilan (D-Brooklyn) credited Rosado for his strong advocacy, saying the grieving father "was relentless in his pursuit to ensure a tragic event like this never happens again."
Rosado thanked Paterson and lawmakers for working together to get it done.
"I appreciate that everybody got together here, put aside all politics and bonded together as human beings, as parents and grandparents," Rosado said.
Rosado said he plans to try and see Leandra’s Law passed nationally.