It is illegal for anyone to operate a motor vehicle while impaired by or under the influence of alcohol or drugs. New York enforces very strict criminal laws pertaining to Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI) and Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). If you are charged with a DWI offense in New York, it’s important to know the potential penalties you face and the value of having defense counsel you can trust in this difficult situation.
The penalties for DWI conviction in New York are severe and easily capable of interfering with your life in various ways. It’s natural to feel isolated and hopeless in this situation, but the right criminal attorney on your side can make a tremendous difference in the outcome of your case. The Vitaliano Law Firm has years of experience representing New York clients in a wide range of DWI cases, and we can leverage this experience on your behalf.
Police must have probable cause to conduct a traffic stop for suspected DWI. For example, if a police officer notices a driver swerving or driving erratically, these issues can constitute probable cause that would justify a traffic stop. At this point, the traffic stop could go many possible ways. If the police officer notices an open container of alcohol in the vehicle, the distinct smell of alcohol on the driver’s breath, or other clear indications that the driver is under the influence of alcohol, the police officer will likely arrest the driver for DWI.
Some police officers may ask drivers to complete field sobriety tests. However, there is no obligation for a driver to agree to such tests. New York’s implied consent law for DWI testing only applies to chemical tests administered after lawful arrests for DWI. If you are arrested for DWI, you must submit to a chemical test at the police station after you are booked. Refusal of this test will automatically result in an administrative suspension of your driver’s license by the New York Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), and if you are convicted of the DWI offense, you will face the harshest possible penalty.
Like most other states, New York uses the blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) measurement system to determine DWI. The legal limit for DWI is .08%. However, a driver may face a DWAI charge if their BAC is above .07% but below .08%. DWAI violations are less severe than DWI, but they still carry significant penalties. The chemical test administered by the police can also check for the presence of certain illicit drugs in the driver’s bloodstream. Different drugs metabolize at different rates, and everyone will process drugs differently. However, if your chemical test reveals the presence of any illegal drugs in your system, the police will use this against you.
When a driver is convicted of DWI in New York for the first time, they face up to one year in county jail, fines up to $1,000, a six-month driver’s license suspension, and up to one year of mandatory ignition interlock device use on their vehicle. The penalties for DWI conviction increase if the defendant has committed prior DWI offenses within the past few years. For example, a second DWI conviction within five years will lead to a mandatory minimum jail term of five days up to a maximum of four years, fines up to $5,000, and a one-year driver’s license suspension if the prior conviction is within ten years.
Penalties for a third DWI are much harsher, including up to seven years in jail, fines up to $10,000, and permanent driver’s license suspension if the third conviction is within four years of the second. It’s also important to note that for those facing DWAI and DWI conviction in New York, the judges handling their cases have broad discretionary power to impose additional penalties as they see fit. For example, a defendant may be required to attend victim impact panels, which means they must confront people who have lost loved ones to impaired drivers. Additional penalties may also include mandatory drug and alcohol abuse treatment, mandatory driver safety courses, and community service.
If you are convicted of DWI for the first time in New York, you must abide by the terms of the judge’s sentence. You may be unable to drive for the suspension period unless you qualify for a restricted license that will allow you to get to and from work and handle emergencies during your suspension. If you violate the terms of your sentence, you could end up in jail or face harsher penalties.
Your defense attorney may attempt to have your case dismissed by highlighting violations of due process committed by the police or by citing violations of your civil or Constitutional rights. It’s also possible to beat a DWI charge by contesting the validity of the chemical test administered by the police.
DWAI offenses are prosecuted as infractions for the first two offenses, and then the third DWAI offense would be prosecuted as a misdemeanor. While DWAI offenses are generally lighter than DWI offenses, the penalties can still be significant and disruptive to your everyday life in various ways.
The majority of New York defense attorneys bill their clients by the hour, so the longer your attorney must spend working on your case, the more it will cost in legal fees. If you are concerned about the potential cost of your defense representation, ask your attorney to clearly explain their billing policy before you sign a contract for their services.
Facing a DWAI or DWI charge in 2023 can have dramatic effects on your personal and professional life beyond the standard penalties assigned for these offenses. The Vitaliano Law Firm can provide the robust and client-focused defense counsel you need in this situation, so contact us today and schedule a consultation with our team about your impending DWI case.