NY DWI Overview
One third of the fatalities in New York State are caused by impaired or intoxicated drivers—those driving while impaired (DWI). A driver’s judgment, coordination, and ability to operate a motor vehicle are significantly impacted when alcohol of any amount is consumed.
The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles explains that the level of impairment is dependent on four primary conditions
- the amount of alcohol that is consumed;
- the amount of food eaten before or while drinking;
- the length of time spent consuming alcohol; and
- the person’s body weight.
Blood Alcohol Tests
BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) is the level of the concentration of alcohol in an individual’s blood and is the best predictor of possible involvement in a motor vehicle crash. Increased BAC means a drastic increase in crash risk. For example, a driver with a BAC of 0.08% is four times more likely to cause a crash as a driver who has not had any alcohol, and a driver with a BAC of 0.16% is 25 times more likely to cause an accident.
Types of DWI
There are several levels of offense that concern drinking and driving. They include the following:
- Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). Any driver with a .08% Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) or higher or other evidence of intoxication will be cited. Drivers of commercial motor vehicles are held to an even stricter standard of .04% BAC or other evidence of intoxication;
- Aggravated Driving While Intoxicated (Aggravated DWI). A driver with a .18% BAC or higher;
- Driving While Ability Impaired by Alcohol (DWAI/Alcohol). A driver who has more than .05% BAC but less than .07% BAC, or other evidence of impairment; and
- Driving While Ability Impaired by a Combined Influence of Drugs or Alcohol (DWAI/Combination). A driver who has evidence of the consumption of alcohol and a controlled substance.
In addition to these DWI offenses, New York State law makes it illegal for any driver or passenger to possess an alcoholic beverage with intent to consume. This is called the “open container” law.
Zero Tolerance Law
Drivers who are less than 21 years of age and who drive with a .02 to .07% BAC will be cited for violation of the Zero Tolerance Law. In effect, the law makes it illegal for a driver under age 21 to have consumed any alcohol.
Penalties under the Zero Tolerance Law include a six-month license suspension, a $125 civil penalty, and a $100 suspension termination fee. Each additional offense will result in the revocation of the offender’s driver’s license for at least one year or until age 21, whichever is longer, plus a $125 civil penalty, and a $100 license re-application fee.
Field Test Refusals
Known as a “Chemical Test Refusal,” a driver who refuses to take a chemical test (typically a test of breath, blood, or urine) will have his or her license suspended at a court arraignment and revoked for at least one year. A second offense will result in license revocation of at least 18 months. There is also a civil penalty of $500 for the first offense, and $750 for a second.
Drivers under 21 years old who refuse to take a chemical test under the Zero Tolerance Law are subject to a one-year license revocation and a $125 civil penalty.
The penalties and fines for refusing to submit to a chemical test are separate and distinct from— and in addition to—the penalties and fines for alcohol or drug-related convictions listed below.
In New York, the penalties for an alcohol- or drug-related violation include the loss of driving privileges, fines, and a possible jail term. For example, a first DWI offense could result in a maximum $2,500 fine, license revocation, and one year in jail. A third offense carries a maximum $10,000 fine, up to seven years in prison, and a minimum of 18 months’ license revocation.
In addition to the fine imposed after being convicted, DWI offenders may also have to pay a mandatory surcharge and a mandatory fee for assistance to crime victims which could total several hundreds of dollars or more. There is also what is called a “Driver Responsibility Assessment” for certain violations that result in a conviction or an administrative finding. These assessment payments can be for up to three years, and offenders’ license and driving privileges will be suspended if the payments are not made.
Ignition Interlock Devices
A driver who is convicted of misdemeanor or felony drunk driving charges—even a first offense—is required to install and maintain an ignition interlock device at their own expense on any vehicles they own or operate for at least six months. The court also will require an alcohol assessment for repeat offenders in some situations.
Convictions for Causing Death or Injury
In addition to the penalties discussed above, a driver who is found guilty of alcohol- or drug-related driving violation that causes death or injury may be convicted of vehicular manslaughter or vehicular assault.
The driver will have his or her license revoked, and each conviction is a felony punishable by imprisonment and fines under the state penal code. The penalties are increased if the offender has been convicted of an alcohol- or drug-related driving violation that occurred within the previous 10 years.
Contact an Experienced DWI Law Firm
New York has tough drunk driving laws, and the enforcement and prosecution of DWI offenders has been even more effective with the passing of New York State’s STOP-DWI Law. STOP-DWI stands for “Special Traffic Options Program for Driving While Intoxicated,” and the law empowers counties to coordinate local efforts to reduce alcohol and other drug related traffic crashes. Every county in New York State, including ours, has a STOP-DWI program.
If you are in need of experienced and aggressive representation, the ABC Law Firm will help you. The skilled attorneys at ABC Law know New York DWI law and excel at assisting clients work through the complexities of the state legal system. Contact us at 555-555-5555 as soon as possible to discuss your case and to get help resolving your legal issue.