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DWI Penalties

Under New York state law a DWI is a very serious offense and the DWI penalties for a conviction can be quite high. As the circumstances regarding each offense are somewhat unique, so will the consequences be as determined by the criminal justice system. In general, the following is an overview of the New York State DWI laws and the penalties one might expect to incur for a conviction.

First, to quote just a couple of the New York State DWI laws: "No person shall operate a motor vehicle while such person has .08 of one per centum or more by weight of alcohol in the person's blood as shown by chemical analysis of such person's blood, breath, urine or saliva . . . " (VTL 1192[2]) and "No person shall operate a motor vehicle while in an intoxicated condition." (VTL 1192[3])

There are three levels of driving while intoxicated in New York. The first of those is DWAI, or driving while ability impaired. This is generally considered to be a blood alcohol level (BAC) of .05 to .07. The driver can expect fines in the range of $300 - $500 for the first offense with various surcharges and associated costs pushing the total to over $1000. The driver's license is usually suspended for a period of six months, and they are required to take and alcohol education program.

The second level is DWI, or "driving while intoxicated". A blood alcohol level (BAC) in the range of 0.18 to 0.17. The fine schedule goes up accordingly ($500 - $1000), with total costs in the $2000 range. License revocation is for six months and the driver must take an educational course. The driver's vehicle may also be equipped with a breath alcohol ignition interlock system (for which the driver must pay installation and rental fees).

The third level of DWI offense is called "aggravated driving while intoxicated" and generally refers to a BAC in excess of 0.17. The fines and penalties continue to rise from the previous level and will include costs of $3000 and above, a minimum one year license revocation, and alcohol education.

The above are the minimum DWI penalties one might expect if pulled over or stopped at a DWI checkpoint. In each instance the possibility of one to seven years jail time also exists and will be determined by the courts based on a number of factors. Likewise the possibilty of community service penalties exist in all cases. Each of the penalties will all increase considerably for a second or third offense within a ten year period, with the charges now becoming felony DWI. If you have received your DWI as a result of a traffic violation, you are also responsible for the traffic citations. If received after a motor vehicle accident you may also have to pay restitution for injuries and property damage. In the worst case scenario, if your drinking results in an accident in which another is killed you may be facing vehicular homicide charges. New York state has very complex laws regarding DWI and a great deal of leeway in prescribing penalties. It is imperative that one understand that driving while intoxicated is a crime and the penalties you face will be at the discretion of the judicial system.

If the above DWI penalties not sufficient to make you think twice about drinking and driving, also consider a few of the non-penalty consequences: your auto insurance is likely to greatly increase or you may be forced into risk pool insurance; in certain professions (healthcare as an example) a DWI conviction may lead to suspension our loss of your professional licensure; time must be taken from work to attends hearings, classes, etc.; if you are in the country illegally you may face deportation; and finally you get to wake up one morning to find your name (and often picture) on the pages of your local newspaper.