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Suffolk probation officers didn’t report DUI violators, report says

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, above, said in several

State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, above, said in several cases, Suffolk probation officers didn't follow a law requiring prosecutors be told if a convicted drunken driver tries to drive under the influence. Photo Credit: Charles Eckert

On more than 12 occasions, Suffolk County probation officers failed to alert prosecutors in a timely manner that convicted drunken drivers attempted to drive while under the influence or tampered with court-ordered ignition interlock devices, according to a report released Monday by the state comptroller’s office.

The report followed a review of a five-year sample of court records in Suffolk and five other counties by State Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli’s office to check if they were enforcing Leandra’s Law.

The state legislation passed in December 2009 is named after 11-year-old Leandra Rosado. Leandra died in an October 2009 accident after the minivan in which she was a passenger crashed on the West Side Highway in Manhattan. The driver, the mother of one of the Leandra’s friends, later pleaded guilty to driving while intoxicated and second-degree manslaughter.

The law requires any person convicted of driving while intoxicated to have an ignition interlock device installed on any vehicle they own or operate. The device prevents drivers from turning on their vehicle if alcohol is detected on their breath.

Multiple cases were found in Suffolk, Cortland, Erie, Montgomery, Otsego, and Wayne counties where violations went unreported to local prosecutors within the three-business day mandate outlined in the law.

A sample of 250 Leandra’s Law convictions in Suffolk from January 2010 to May 2015 found that in 12 cases, the county’s probation office did not notify Suffolk prosecutors in a “timely fashion” of “negative activity” recorded on the interlock device, such as failed alcohol tests or attempts to tamper with the device.

The report also states that in six cases, Suffolk probation officers never notified prosecutors of the negative activity detected by the devices.

As of last April, there were about 145 Suffolk probation officers, monitoring 5,058 individuals ordered to use ignition-interlock devices, according to the report.

The Suffolk County Probation Department has taken action to correct the issues raised in the report, said director Patrice Dlhopolsky in an Oct. 15, 2015, letter to the comptroller’s office.

“Probation officers have been made aware that there is no discretionary leeway in court notification on negative events . . . .” Dlhopolsky wrote. “Supervisors have been advised to review adherence to this requirement on a continuing basis.”

DiNapoli Monday called for “better monitoring” among local law enforcement agencies to ensure they are enforcing the law, which also makes it a felony to drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs with a child younger than 16.

“Individuals who attempt to operate a vehicle while under the influence or try to tamper with their ignition device are not always being held accountable,” DiNapoli said. “Local officials should follow through with law enforcement and report potential violations so that appropriate actions can be taken to protect the public and keep our roadways safe.”

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