New York State DWI Penalties and License Consequences
Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI)
An individual can be convicted of DWAI if he/she operates a motor vehicle while his/her ability is impaired to any extent by alcohol. DWAI is a traffic infraction and not a crime.
Frequently, people who are charged with Driving While Intoxicated for the first time are offered a plea bargain to DWAI. This offer is not always made, especially where the District Attorney's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) guidelines are exceeded. For example, many DA's offices will not offer a DWAI plea if “the number” is over .13%. In addition, some DA's offices are reluctant to offer the impaired plea if the driver refused the Intoxilyzer exam.
When offered, a DWAI plea is usually a good disposition for an individual charged with misdemeanor DWI. The reasons for this are that a criminal conviction is avoided and the loss of driving privileges is minimized.
If you plead guilty to DWAI or are found guilty after a trial, the potential consequences are as follows:
- fine of $300-$500, up to 15 days in jail, or both;
- 90 day license suspension;
- $255 surcharge;
- driver responsibility assessment of $250 per year for 3 years; and
- attendance at a Victim Impact Panel.
In most cases you will be eligible for the Drinking Driver Program (DDP) and a Conditional License. It is important to note that the rules are different for CDL holders and for drivers under 21 years of age. Further, the consequences listed above are for first offenders. The penalties for second and third DWAI convictions are more severe and a third DWAI within a ten year period can be charged as a misdemeanor.
Driving While Intoxicated (DWI)-First Offense
DWI is a misdemeanor, which means a conviction will either give you a criminal record or add to your criminal record if you already have one. The potential consequences for a first offense DWI conviction are as follows:
- fine of $500-$1000, up to one year in jail, or both;
- 3 years probation;
- license revocation of at least 6 months;
- discretionary registration revocation of at least 6 months;
- $395 surcharge;
- driver responsibility assessment of $250 per year for 3 years;
- attendance at a Victim Impact Panel;
- requirement that you install and maintain an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) in any vehicle which you own or operate during the term of probation or conditional discharge, and in any case for no less than 6 months.
After a conviction for a first offense DWI you will usually be eligible for the Drinking Driver Program (DDP) and a conditional license.
Aggravated DWI-First Offense
Aggravated DWI, when charged as a first offense, is a misdemeanor just like regular DWI. However, the penalties for Aggravated DWI are enhanced. Aggravated DWI can be charged when an individual is arrested for DWI and either his Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) is measured to be .18 of one percent or greater or when a child aged 15 or less is a passenger in the vehicle.
The potential consequences for a first offense Aggravated DWI are as follows:
- fine of between $1,000 and $2,500, up to one year in jail, or both;
- three years misdemeanor probation;
- one year license revocation;
- possible revocation of automobile registration for at least one year;
- surcharge of $395;
- driver's Responsibility Assessment of $250/year for three years;
- attendance at a Victim Impact Panel;
- ignition interlock for period of probation or conditional discharge, or, for a minimum of six months.
DWAI Drugs is a misdemeanor. The consequences for a DWAI Drugs conviction are very similar to those for a DWI conviction. However, if you are convicted of a DWAI Drugs, you are not eligible for a conditional license (though you may be able to get a restricted license). Further, there is no requirement that an Ignition Interlock Device be installed (an instance of the law making sense since the violation does not involve alcohol).
What is interesting about DWAI Drugs is that the standard of proof is the same as for DWAI. The prosecution only has to prove that the ability of the person charged was impaired, not that he/she was rendered incapable of driving in a reasonable and prudent manner. Even though this lower standard of proof is all that is required, a conviction for DWAI Drugs, unlike a conviction for DWAI, is a misdemeanor conviction and results in a criminal record.
Second and Third Offenses
The penalties for second and third DWI convictions become increasingly severe. These penalties are not listed here. It is important to note that if you have been arrested for DWI and were convicted of DWI within the past ten years, you can be charged with a Class E Felony. Further, as of September 25, 2012, the New York State DMV promulgated new regulations which severely impact repeat offenders. These regulations can cause you to be permanently deprived of your right to drive a car. It is therefore of critical importance to retain a lawyer who understands New York State DWI law as well as New York State law related to moving violations and motor vehicle points.
While not drinking and driving is, of course, sound and obvious advice, it is critically important to not take the risk of driving after even one drink if you already have a conviction for DWI or DWAI. The law has simply become too draconian for any person in this situation to take that chance!