Guilty Plea in New York Case That Led to New DUI Law
By: Mary Ann Pekara
Carmen Huertas plead guilty recently to DUI in a case that caused public outrage and led to the passage of a new DUI law in New York state called Leandra’s Law.
Huertas was drunk while driving a car full of children to a slumber party. While she was driving on the Henry Hudson Parkway in Manhattan, she crashed and flipped the station wagon that she was driving, killing 11-year-old Leandra Rosado, and injuring the other five children who were in the car.
In the court case, Huertas pleaded guilty to DUI and 15 other counts, including second-degree manslaughter, according to the New York Post.
Rosado’s father, Lenny, finally allowed himself to cry after the guilty pleas came. “I didn’t want to let my little girl down,” he said, his face full of emotion. “She took my daughter’s life.”
Lenny Rosado was a key player in pushing forward Leandra’s Law to strengthen ignition interlock requirements for convicted drunk drivers. He was angry that Huertas was only charged with manslaughter, spurring his public cry for tougher laws.
The law makes it an automatic felony DUI on the first offense to drive drunk with someone under the age of 15 in the car. The limit for the law is the same as overall DUI laws, .08 blood-alcohol content.
A new part of Leandra’s Law will also soon go into effect, causing anyone who is convicted of felony or misdemeanor DUI to have an ignition interlock system installed on their vehicle. These devices test the blood-alcohol content of the operator of a motor vehicle that has the device installed.
“I made a promise to my daughter that I was going to change these laws,” he said.
Also in attendance for Huertas’s guilty pleas was Yiselle Rosario, who was also in the car when it crashed. Rosario still has scars on both legs following the surgeries required from injuries she sustained in the crash. She leaned on a cane as she entered the Manhattan Supreme Court on the day of the pleas.
Huertas was emotional herself as she answered “yes” to the question posed by the judge when he asked if she had been drinking on the night of the accident. She admitted to drinking Cognac that night according to the New York Post.
She faces between two and 12 years in prison following the guilty plea for DUI and other offenses. She will face sentencing on October 1. The judge would not specify what he thought that the sentence would be, but said that it would be more than the minimum time required given the plea, and less than the maximum time allowed by the law.
Some of the people injured and impacted by the tragic accident will be there to speak at the sentencing hearings.
Huertas’ own daughter was injured in the accident.
Huertas was driving 68 miles per hour in a 50 mph zone when she lost control of the station wagon.
“It’s about time she confessed,” said Lenny Rosado. “She did it. It was about time.” He is pushing his legislation even further, having met with federal officials to discuss the idea of making Leandra’s Law a federal law.