Samantha Alfaro, 18, of Bay Shore, pleaded not guilty to...

Samantha Alfaro, 18, of Bay Shore, pleaded not guilty to vehicular assault and drunken driving charges stemming from a March car crash that critically injured her 3-year-old daughter, authorities said. Credit: Mona Rivera / 1010 WINS

A young mother pleaded not guilty to vehicular assault and drunken driving charges Monday, more than four months after she drove a car into a tree in Syosset, critically injuring her 3-year-old daughter who was not in a child car seat as required by law, authorities said.

Samantha Alfaro, 18, of Bay Shore, faces 15 years in prison if she is convicted on grand jury charges of aggravated vehicular assault, first- and second-degree vehicular assault, aggravated driving while intoxicated with a child under 15, reckless endangerment and endangering the welfare of a child.

She was held on $100,000 bond, or $50,000 bail. She is due back in court Aug. 2. Around 7:30 a.m. on March 8, prosecutors say Alfaro, of 39 Kansas Ave., left her cousin's house in East Meadow and was driving a 1998 Mazda north on South Oyster Bay Road when she passed out at the wheel of the car, which veered into the southbound lanes and smashed into a tree. A blood test showed her blood-alcohol content was 0.11 percent. The state limit is .08 percent, police said.

Her daughter, Yhoalibeth, was in the backseat, restrained by a seat belt, police said. New York State law requires children under the age of 4 to ride in approved safety seats. A child's car seat was found in the trunk of Alfaro's car, according to Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice.

The girl's neck was broken and her spine severed, and she is on life support at a Westchester children's hospital, Rice said.

Alfaro will be prosecuted under the state's Leandra's Law, which makes it an automatic felony to drive drunk with a child under the age of 16 in the car and imposes tougher penalties, Rice said.

"An innocent little girl is now on life support because her mother chose to drive drunk and leave her safety seat in the trunk," Rice said. "Children deserve every possible level of protection we can provide."

In this March 8, 2010 photo, Nassau County Police investigate...

In this March 8, 2010 photo, Nassau County Police investigate a single-car accident that occured on South Oyster Bay Road and Hicks Avenue in Syosset, NY. Samantha Alfaro, 18, of Bay Shore, will be arraigned Monday, July 19, 2010 on vehicular assault and driving while intoxicated charges, Nassau County police said. Credit: Photo by KEVIN P. COUGHLIN

Alfaro, who received internal injuries and fractured both ankles in the crash, was arrested Sunday night at her residence after the Nassau grand jury indicted her last Tuesday, police said.

"It's an extremely horrific situation that this 18-year-old finds herself in," said Alfaro's lawyer, Dennis Lemke of Mineola. "The young lady is devastated."

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