Leandra’s Law – Good Intentions – Bad Results
LEANDRA’S LAW – 1192(2-a)(b) OF VEHICLE AND TRAFFIC LAW: GOOD INTENTIONS RESULT IN HARM TO CHILD AND FAMILY
Leandra’s Law was passed by the New York State Legislature and signed by the Governor in response to the death of Leandra Rosado, who was killed in an auto accident when she was being driven home by a friend’s mother who was intoxicated and speeding.
The law makes it a class E felony 1192.(2-a)(b), punishable up to 4 years in prison, as well as a revocation of a person’s driver’s license for anyone to drive while intoxicated, (1192.2, 1192.3) or impaired by a drug, (1192.4), if they have a child in the car less than 15 years old. It is however, NOT a violation of Leandra’s Law to drive while impaired by alcohol, a violation of 1192.1, with a child under 15.
The legislature was cognizant of the fact that parents and adults, may consume alcohol in limited amounts, and drive their and other’s children safely without being guilty of a crime, and without subject to enhanced penalties.
Although the intent of the Legislature was for a good reason, the enforcement of the law by local district attorney’s offices' when the violation involves a parent and child, and their current approach to the law actually causes more harm than good to the children it was designed to protect when the accused drunk driver is a Parent or immediate family member. For example, the Nassau District Attorney’s Office, as well as other District Attorney’s Offices take the draconian position of not plea bargaining the E felony to a lesser charge even though the Legislature actually permits such plea bargain.
Unlike drug felonies, or other felonies, of which many times result in non-criminal dispositions after the completion of a program, Nassau requires the accused parent to plea to the felony, and recommends jail in every instance. Other Offices offer alternative pleas, like felony diversion in cases like this, whereby the accused pleads to the felony, and then after completing a program successfully is permitted to withdraw his plea and then plea to a misdemeanor with probation. How does Nassau current policy of requiring a Plea to Felony and recommendation of jail of the accused parent help the child of the offender? It does not since the child’s mother or father will be scarred with a felony record for the rest of their life. This will many times result in the loss of their immediate employment. Now branded as a felon that parent, or adult will not be able to get a the lowest paying job. This Felony record will follow that parent and be a lifetime bar to any decent job or wages. Loss of employment directly effects the child in question, and the rest of the children in the family, as well as the family unit. No job means no income to raise the child or children, no opportunities to save for the college education of the children, weddings, etc. and mostly results in the destruction of the family unit, as we know it.
Moreover, for those individuals that are falsely accused of this crime, it will soon become apparent that the Prosecutors will not hesitate to call the child involved no matter the age, to testify against their own father or mother even when such testimony is not needed to obtain a conviction!!! How does this protect the child? It does not, instead it causes irreparable harm to the child, who is used as a pawn by the prosecutor against the parent, to be soon abandoned after they obtain a conviction.
This ploy and threat is frequently used by the Prosecutors to strong arm or coercive the accused parent to pleading to something they didn’t do to avoid further traumatizing their children. I have heard of several individuals pleading to this charge, not because they were guilty but because they did not want have their child or children further victimized.
Anyone who is familiar with criminal prosecutions, knows that young and impressionable children can be easily influenced into saying things are not true against their own parents by people in authority, or an estranged parent, thus adopting the prosecution’s version of the events as being true when in fact it is not.
One only has to review the great number of convictions of parents accused of physically or sexually abusing their own children, which have been overturned years later by the Courts when it was revealed later that the overzealous prosecutors, police, in collusion with the estranged spouse, or other interested parties worked together to improperly influenced the child’s to testify falsely against their parent, or parents. One ploy that is commonly used is by pretending to be the child’s friend, telling the child to call them by their first name, explaining to the child incorrectly that nothing will happen to “Daddy” or “Mommy” if they are convicted, that things will actually be better, they will get the treatment they need. The truth is they are more focused on getting them to help get a Felony conviction and putting what has been a loving parent in jail or prison. They completely ignore the long term long term consequences that said conviction will have on emotional stability of the child and the family as well the adverse financial effect on the the accused parents ability to provide for the childs' and families immediate car and needs.
Moreover, when the accused parent is estranged, separated, or divorced from the other parent, they know fully that said conviction will but ensure that the accused parent will virtually lose their visitation rights or put at a disadvantage in any custody proceeding.
It is my opinion, many prosecutor’s offices are causing more harm than good to the child who is the alleged victim in these Leandra Law 1192(2-a)(b) cases. Many times zealously prosecuting parents accused of violating this law will only destroy the accused parent by branding them with a felony conviction that results in loss of employment, which in turn results in loss of income available to the child and the rest of the family, but it also destroys the parent-child relationship, and traumatizes the child later in life. There is the inherent risk that the child will many times blame themselves for the devastation that has been caused to the parent, and the rest of the family. This is harm is further compounded when the Prosecutors call the child to the witness stand to testify against their loving parent. Thereby, ensuring the destruction of the relationship completely. This tactic which is frequently threatened, is not necessary to establish the case against the accused parent, but is used nonetheless by the Prosecutors who care more about getting convictions, than the best interests of the child.
While the intent of the law is good, to protect children, the sad truth is many district attorney’s offices have lost sight of its good intent, and common sense by conducting overzealous prosecutions in almost every case which has caused more harm to the child than good. This clearly was not the intent of the legislature, as there is no bar to local District Attorney's offices to plea bargain violations of 1192(2-a)(b).