share on:

New York’s groundbreaking Leandra’s Law had its first official challenge last month when an offender sentenced to the mandatory year of ignition interlock challenged his sentence after failing to install the system in the required timeframe, then failing subsequent uploads and tests.

Ernan Perez’s challenge represents the first reported one to the state law, but it really served to highlight the loopholes in program enforcement that plague the majority of interlock programs.

Since the law went into effect in August 2010, the Queens District Attorney’s Office has been monitoring a reported 3,836 cases throughout New York City. Of that number, 2,818—an astounding 73%—indicated they either did not own a car or have sold or transferred ownership of their vehicle. When a claim of selling or transfer of title is made, the DA’s staff requires a litany of documents as proof, which are all tracked and verified.

In total, 24% of those in New York City convicted under Leandra’s Law and required to install ignition interlock actually did so. Statewide, one-third have complied with the law.

Lawmakers rallied in 2012 in an effort to close this loophole, requiring that anyone claiming they no longer have a vehicle wear a Continuous Alcohol Monitoring device in lieu of the interlock. The goal is to deter false reporting on the sale of the vehicles or transfer of the title to family or friends (and the large amount of staff time required to administer the claims) with the incentive that CAM monitoring is more costly than the interlock. It also ensures convicted drunk drivers don’t “get off” without some level of monitoring.

New York Daily News: Dad Anguished as Bill to Close Leandra’s Law Loopholes Stalls in Assembly Committee

The Republican-led Senate passed the initiative in May and garnered the report of district attorneys statewide, as well as Mothers Against Drunk Driving. But it stalled in the House in June, with media reports speculating that the costs to the offender and a perceived increase in required staffing to manage the technology as the primary reasons.

Leandra’s Law specifically requires offenders to pay for their year of ignition interlock, as well as the proposed CAM monitoring, an important point in a state that is widely known to be opposed to the offender-pay model.

As any provider of GPS, house arrest/home detention, ignition interlock, or CAM will tell you, offender-pay is the predominant system in place across most of the U.S. for funding community corrections programs. In fact offenders in most every state are required to contribute all or a significant portion of the costs of mandatory education, treatment, polygraphs, and drug and alcohol testing as a requirement of probation or parole.

Our own data shows that 83% of programs nationwide using SCRAM CAM require offenders to contribute, all or a portion, to the bottom line. For those offenders who qualify, a variety of models are in place, from accessing grants and funding to sliding scales and payment plans that can accommodate most every economic requirement.

In New York, monitoring tools go through a contracting process at both the State and County level to ensure cost compliance. And in the last year, despite more than 500 active SCRAMx participants in the state of New York, not a single agency added more people to cover the workload. Actually, most have seen staff cuts due to budget constraints.

Perez was found in violation of his conditional discharge, was sentenced to 30 days in jail, an additional year on ignition interlock, and six months on SCRAMx. Add to that the costs for an attorney to challenge his obvious violation of Leandra’s Law, and it seems a period on SCRAMx would have been substantially less expensive.

Despite our position in the market, we are advocates of ignition interlock technology, both as a community safety tool and as a behavior modification tool for first-time DUI offenders—precisely the offenders targeted in Leandra’s Law.

What are your thoughts on the proposed modifications to the law in New York State? Does it close an important loophole? Is it unfairly burdening offenders by requiring they pay for the monitoring?



Matthew Mitchell

Matthew Mitchell

Matthew Mitchell is country manager, United Kingdom for SCRAM Systems. Based in London, he is tasked with developing and implementing Alcohol Sobriety Programmes across the UK. Besides oversight of the day-to-day operations of the London office, Mitchell also works with policing agencies and local authorities to drive awareness, and promote implementation of transdermal alcohol monitoring solutions at the local level. He also works with key stakeholders within the government, academia, research, and special interest organizations that focus on alcohol misuse, crime, and technology solutions. Mitchell began the first 8 years of his career in Cook County, IL, assigned to the Juvenile Probation Department, with 7 of those years spent in the Intensive Probation Supervision Unit before becoming supervisor of the Electronic Monitoring Unit. He finished up his stint in Cook County working in the Training Division, where he was part of a team of trainers responsible for the induction of new hires. He also worked for the State of Colorado’s 2nd Judicial District Probation Department as an Adult Drug Court Officer and a Drug Court Program Supervisor. The past 10 years Mitchell has worked for SCRAM Systems in a variety of roles, most recently serving as the director of Industry Relations for SCRAM Systems, prior to accepting his position in London. A Chicago native, Mitchell is a graduate of Cornell College, with a BA in Sociology and Anthropology, and he holds a MS in Criminal Justice from the University of Cincinnati. He has become an avid tea drinker since relocating and an advocate for sturdy umbrellas, otherwise known as brollies.

Leave a Response

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.