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CRIMINAL DEFENSE • DISCIPLINARY INVESTIGATIONS & HEARINGS

Waiver of Ignition Interlock Expenses Highest in New York

Leandra’s Law has been in effect in the state of New York since August 2010. The law requires every person convicted of driving while intoxicated to have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicles.

An ignition interlock device requires a breath sample from the driver before the car’s engine can start. The car will not start if alcohol is detected on the driver’s breath. At the time the law was enacted, New York was one of only 10 states to require the devices.

Expensive for Those Convicted

Ignition interlock devices are very expensive. The devices cost approximately $80 to install, $40 to remove and $90 a month to maintain. There is also a fee to reset the device, which happens when a motorist blows over the legal limit. Those convicted of drunk driving can petition the court to waive the fees upon the submission of a financial statement showing financial hardship, but the rate at which waivers are granted vary by county.

For instance, in Monroe County people convicted of drunk driving and ordered to install an ignition interlock device have had their fees waived about 14 percent of the time. Monroe County appears to be the most lenient county when it comes to granting the waivers, which it does two times more often than the state average. By contrast, judges in Suffolk County grant waivers 7 percent of the time, while those in New York City and Nassau County grant waivers only 3 percent of the time.

Frustrations With the Law

One aspect of the law that may contribute to the variations by county in the number of people who have gotten waivers is that there is no clear criterion for granting a waiver. The standard for granting a waiver should be the same whether the judge is in Monroe County, Suffolk County, Nassau County or New York City.

How public defenders are trained may be another factor contributing to the discrepancy in waivers being granted. A public defender in Monroe County told the Democrat and Chronicle that lawyers are trained aggressively to handle DWI cases, and part of the training focuses on advocating for their clients in getting waivers.

Lawmakers have suggested new ways to deal with the costs of ignition interlock devices. For example, one lawmaker says that a surcharge should be placed on people convicted of drunk driving. Then, there could be a pool for those who cannot afford the device.

Those convicted of drunk driving in New York face many serious penalties, only one of which is the ignition interlock device. There are also monetary costs, loss of a driver’s license and jail time. New Yorkers facing a DWI charge should contact an attorney specializing in DWI defense to make sure that their legal rights are protected.

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