BATAVIA, NY -- On the first Leandra's Law interlock-device case to go through Genesee County Court, there were some bugs in the bureaucracy to be worked out.
First, the case of Joshua P. Garcia was delayed from the morning to the afternoon so State Probation form DPCA-520 BAL-IID could be filled out. That form is titled "Vehicle Operation and Access By Others," and contains a description of the vehicles a person convicted of DWI could drive.
Garcia, an Erie County resident charged with DWI on Dec. 20, filled out the form originally with two vehicles, but then decided to turn in the plates on one and it was scratched from the form.
Even so, the county has its own form, and it asked for two pieces of information not on the state form -- vehicle color and the license plate number. Since that form surfaced in court this afternoon, a deputy had to call dispatch and read the VIN number off the DPCA-520 BAL-IID form to a dispatcher and get the plate number.
Then, Garcia's attorney, Jerry Ader, petitioned the court for a hardship waiver so his client wouldn't have to pay for the interlock device. That form had to be filled out in triplicate and handed to the court at the time of sentencing, even though Judge Robert C. Noonan would be ruling on the matter in the same hearing.
In the end, Noonan found that Garcia's $25,000 annual salary was sufficient to pay for the device -- even with the fines for this DWI, a recent DWI conviction in Erie County plus probation fees there. The judge sentenced Garcia to five years probation and 90 days intermittent incarceration.
Noonan said he didn't find Garcia "indigent enough" to waive the interlock-device fees, which judges can do under terms of Leandra's Law.
Garcia, a stepson of Joseph Benaquist, the Pembroke resident murdered by Scott Doll in February, 2009, said he has been through a lot recently and turned to drinking because of the stress.
"Now I see that alcohol has brought problems into my life," Garcia said. "I’m done with alcohol."
Under sentencing guidelines, Noonan had few options, but said, "I have enough faith in you to give you a try on probation."
Ader asked that the interlock-device requirement be delayed until Garcia is eligible for a conditional driver's license.
According to his reading of the law, Ader said, he believed Noonan had the discretion to set a later date for installation.
"It makes no sense when my client does not have license," Ader said. "If he gets behind the wheel of a car while on probation, he’s committing a felony."
But the law also requires the device be installed within 10 days of sentencing, which is what Noonan required.