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NYS Comptroller

THOMAS P. DiNAPOLI

Taxpayers' Guide to State and Local Audits

Queens County District Attorney’s Office
Oversight of Persons Convicted of Driving While Intoxicated


Issued: July 29, 2016
Link to full audit report 2015-N-2

Purpose
To determine whether the Queens County District Attorney’s Office (Office) provided proper oversight of persons convicted of Driving While Intoxicated. Significant emphasis was placed on the Office’s administration of the Ignition Interlock Device Program (Program). Our audit covers the period August 15, 2010 through June 25, 2015.

Background
In New York, Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) is a serious crime that may be adjudicated as a misdemeanor or felony, depending on the specific circumstances. Convicted offenders are subject to a range of sanctions including, but not limited to, license suspension or revocation, significant fines, and possible jail time. The Child Passenger Protection Act (Act), signed into law on November 18, 2009, requires all persons sentenced for DWI on or after August 15, 2010 to install and maintain an ignition interlock device (IID) in any vehicle they own or operate. An IID connects to the vehicle’s ignition system and measures a driver’s Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC). If the operator’s BAC exceeds the allowable level preset into the IID (.025 in New York State), the IID will send an alert to the device manufacturer and prevent the driver from starting the car. Once the vehicle is running, drivers will be prompted to blow into the tube periodically to ensure that they have not been drinking while driving (rolling test). The IID vendor is to notify the monitoring entity of any unsuccessful start-up or rolling tests.

In New York City, persons convicted of DWI whose sentence includes a period of probation are monitored by the New York City Department of Probation (Probation), while those sentenced to a conditional discharge are monitored by the Queens County District Attorney’s Office (Office). A grant contract between the Office and the New York State Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), the New York Codes, Rules and Regulations (Regulations), and the New York City Plan (Plan) detail the specific monitoring tasks that the Office is required to perform.

Key Findings

  • Although 9,604 offenders overseen by the Office received court orders to install IIDs, only 1,952 offenders (20.3 percent) did. By borough, IID installation rates ranged from 9 percent in Brooklyn to 30 percent in Staten Island. Generally, offenders who did not install IIDs signed court affidavits stating that they would not drive a motor vehicle during the period of conditional discharge unless it had an IID.
  • There was material noncompliance with the Office’s protocols to minimize the risk that offenders would drive vehicles without IIDs. Specifically, the Office often did not perform all required quarterly DMV vehicle ownership checks and/or refer stipulated IID violation alerts to the appropriate courts, district attorneys, and rehabilitation programs in accordance with the governing Regulations and the New York City Plan for compliance with the Act.
  • For July 2015, we selected a judgmental sample of 27 reports (detailing 55 alerts) to determine if the alerts met one of the referral requirements, and if so, were the referrals made. We concluded that 36 (65 percent) of the 55 reported alerts met one or more of the criteria. However, only 13 (36 percent) of those 36 alerts were referred as required. The remaining 23 alerts (64 percent), resulting from IID lockouts and multiple failed start-up attempts, were not referred.
  • The regulations and Plan prescribe the circumstances under which an offender should be referred to the sentencing court and other pertinent parties. These circumstances include IID alerts of a BAC of .05 or higher. Alerts for BACs between .025 and .05, however, were not referred. Also, the Office did not refer offenders with other violations because those violations were not included in the offenders’ court orders.
  • The Office did not refer offenders with violations to their designated alcohol treatment and safe driver programs, as such program referrals also were not listed on court orders.

Key Recommendations

  • Perform all required DMV checks to verify that offenders who disclaim vehicle ownership do not have vehicles registered in their names. Ensure that all offenders who are registered vehicle owners, or those who acknowledge the use of someone else’s vehicle, install an IID as required.
  • Work with the appropriate courts of jurisdiction to ensure that the court documents accompanying DWI offenders assigned to the Office cite all relevant violations outlined in the State IID Regulations and the NYC Plan.
  • Refer all stipulated alerts pursuant to the State Regulations and Plan to all appropriate parties, including the sentencing court, the applicable district attorney, and the offender’s alcohol treatment provider and safe driver program, as required.

Other Related Audit/Report of Interest
New York City Department of Probation: Oversight of Persons Convicted of Driving While Intoxicated (2014-N-4)


State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director: Frank Patone
Phone: (212) 417-5200; Email: StateGovernmentAccountability@osc.state.ny.us
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236