According to the United States Department of Transportation, roughly a third of all fatal car accidents in the United States are caused by an intoxicated driver. Nat’l Highway Traffic Safety Admin., 2020 Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over: Fact Sheet, at 1 (2020). That is why the Schenectady County District Attorney’s Office works with law enforcement and local programs, such as Stop DWI, NY, to prevent as well as prosecute incidents of driving while an individual is intoxicated or impaired by drugs.
In 2019, the District Attorney’s Office accepted seventy new felony-level cases, and in 2020, sixty-five new cases were accepted. Some of these cases have resulted in incarceration. Others led to mandatory drug and alcohol treatment with court or probation oversight for the intoxicated or impaired driver with the goal of rehabilitation to prevent future incidents and fatalities.
Under what is commonly known as Leandra’s Law, it is a felony to drive a car while intoxicated or impaired by drugs when there is a child in the car who is fifteen years old or less. The Schenectady County District Attorney’s Office takes these cases seriously and rarely negotiates a plea bargain that does not include a plea to the felony charge, even for first time offenders. The reason being that, while adults can choose for themselves whether to endanger their own life by driving while intoxicated or impaired by drugs, children have no choice in being so endangered.
It is also a felony to drive while intoxicated or impaired by drugs within ten years from a prior misdemeanor- or felony-level conviction of driving while intoxicated or impaired by drugs. Recognizing that such conduct is a crime that is completely within the control of the individual driving while intoxicated or impaired by drugs, the Schenectady County District Attorney’s Office also takes these cases seriously and rarely negotiates a plea bargain that does not include a plea to the felony charge.
That said, the purpose of the criminal justice system is not simply to punish offenders but to help rehabilitate individuals so that they are less likely to reoffend, which in turn protects the community. Addiction to drugs and alcohol is a condition that often requires help to overcome. With that understanding, the Schenectady County District Attorney’s Office often recommends a sentence of probation or participation in Schenectady County’s robust Drug Court program. This ensures that the community is appropriately served while helping individuals overcome their addictions.
To learn more about Stop DWI, NY, you can visit their website at: https://stopdwi.org/.