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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, April 26, 2012

Under Leandra’s Law
Harder pleads guilty, will get 1 to 3 years
By Anne Hayden

GUILDERLAND — A Guilderland man pleaded guilty to driving drunk with minors in the car, and, on Tuesday, he was sentenced to one to three years in state prison.

Matthew Harder, 42, was arrested last August, after police received a report of an erratic driver, and found Harder’s 2006 Mazda sedan abandoned on Catherine Street, where it had struck a curb.

Harder was observed walking away from the car, near Morton Avenue and Oneida Terrace, in Albany.

Harder’s 13-year-old daughter and her friend, who was the same age, were in the car as passengers at the time Harder hit the curb; no one was injured in the one-car accident. Harder left the girls in the car when he walked away after the accident, police said.

Police discovered an open container of alcohol in the vehicle, and Harder failed a field sobriety test. He was charged with two counts of aggravated driving while intoxicated, and one count each of driving while intoxicated, leaving the scene of a property damage accident, and endangering the welfare of a child.

Harder was charged under Leandra’s Law, which makes it a felony to drive drunk with a minor in the car.

Leandra’s Law took effect in December 2009, and was named after 11-year-old Leandra Rosado, who died in an accident on the Henry Hudson Parkway. First-time offenders charged with driving-while-intoxicated felonies can sometimes plead down to a charge of driving while ability impaired, a violation, but Leandra’s Law allows defendants to please down only to a misdemeanor DWI charge.

Harder had four previous convictions related to driving while intoxicated, and his license had been revoked at the time of the accident, said Cecilia Logue, spokeswoman for the Albany County District Attorney’s Office.

He had multiple other convictions, said Logue, but she declined commenting on the nature of them.

In February, Harder pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated driving while intoxicated, with a child in the vehicle, a felony, and one count of endangering the welfare of a child, a misdemeanor, according to a release from the District Attorney’s office.

In addition to his one-to-three year prison sentence, he faces $1,000 in court fines and surcharges, a license revocation, and, upon release from custody, he will be required to have an Ignition Interlock device installed in his car for three years.

Logue said the requirement of the Ignition Interlock device — a mechanism, like a breathalyzer, installed in the dashboard, which the driver must exhale into before the car will start — was added to Leandra’s Law in 2010.

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