Senate wants state, not counties, to pay for and supervise parolees with ignition interlock devices

On Monday, the Senate passed a bill that would amend some of the provisions created by Leandra’s Law, which requires DWI offenders or parolees to be monitored by an ignition interlock device in their vehicle.

Specifically, the bills (S.193/A.2915) would require that only the State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision be responsible for the costs and monitoring parolees who require an ignition interlock device in their vehicle. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Kathleen Marchione, R-Halfmoon, and passed in Monday night’s session by a vote of 62-0.

An ignition interlock is a device installed in a vehicle which prevents the driver from being able to start the vehicle if they have been drinking. It acts as a breathalyzer, requiring the driver to blow into the device and measure the amount of alcohol in their system before turning the engine on. If the amount of alcohol detected in the driver’s system exceeds a pre-programmed level, the interlock device temporarily locks the ignition, prohibiting them from driving the vehicle.

The requirement of an ignition interlock device for DWI offenders acts in accordance with legislation signed into law after 11-year old Leandra Rosado was killed while riding in a vehicle with her friend’s intoxicated mother.

Since August 2010, any person sentenced for Driving While Intoxicated in New York State must have an ignition interlock device installed and monitored in all vehicles they own or operate. The offender must pay all related costs — from purchasing the interlock device, to having it installed and maintained — unless the court determines that he/she cannot afford to pay these expenses.

Currently, Leandra’s Law states that the Probation Department is responsible for monitoring compliance with the provisions of the interlock device when it is part of an individual’s terms of probation. In addition, the county agency where an offender is sentenced must also supervise parolees with a mandatory interlock device. These county departments include probation, district attorney, sheriff’s offices, and County STOP DWI, an association in each county dedicated to promoting DWI prevention.

Marchione and her colleagues in the Senate argue that the monitoring of parolees by county departments is redundant and unnecessary because the Office of Parole is already responsible for supervising those offenders with interlock devices.

“The State Office of Parole is the logical entity to not only oversee individuals, but to maintain the costs associated with this effort,” said Marchione. “My legislation also would remove a cost that counties presently bear, and in doing so, helps protect local taxpayers. This is a common sense criminal justice and cost-savings measure, and I am hopeful it will become law this year.”

Senator Marchione’s bill has an Assembly companion, which is sponsored by Assemblyman John McDonald, D-Cohoes.