Nassau arrests drunken drivers who lack interlocks

Twenty-five convicted drunken drivers were arrested for attempting to violate ignition interlock requirements in Nassau County. The requirements became mandatory for those convicted of DWI in 2010. Videojournalist: Jim Staubitser (Aug. 28, 2012)

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A joint operation of the Nassau County district attorney and the county Probation Department has resulted in the arrests of 21 convicted drunken drivers who drove to probation offices without mandated interlock ignition devices on their vehicles.

"Ignition interlocks protect our roadways by requiring that convicted drunk drivers prove that they're sober when they get behind the wheel," District Attorney Kathleen Rice said Tuesday. "When those protections are circumvented, however, every motorist and pedestrian is endangered."

Rice was joined at a news conference at her Mineola offices by probation director John Fowle and Rice's DWI chief, Maureen McCormick.

"In each of these instances, the assigned probation officer will begin an immediate violation of probation," Fowle said.

He said some violators parked a few blocks away and walked to the probation offices, while others parked nearby.

"When we develop information that a probationer is driving without a license or interlock, we conduct surveillance," Fowle said.

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Based on a law enacted in 2010, an ignition interlock must be installed on vehicles used by convicted drunken drivers, who must blow into the device's alcohol detection tube before the car will start. The device will stay connected a minimum of six months for a misdemeanor, and a year for a felony conviction. The new requirement stems from Leandra's Law, passed in 2009 after Leandra Rosado, 11, was killed in Manhattan by a drunken driver.

Enforcement of the law has been a significant problem, Rice said. Some convicted drivers tell the judge who orders the interlock or the probation department that they will not drive at all and have no car registered to them, but then drive the cars of friends or family.

In Nassau, 541 DWI probationers -- 20 percent of the total -- got interlocks. In Suffolk, 648 -- 19 percent of those convicted of DWI -- got the interlock, according to the State Division of Criminal Justice Services. The data covered Aug. 15, 2010, through June 30.

Four other people were arrested and accused of driving in violation of their probations after DWI convictions. They had said they had no car and would not drive.

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