First DWI or DWAI Offense in New York

by ECL Writer
DUI Laws In Washington State

DWI charges can be brought against you in New York after you commit a minor error, therefore many law-abiding citizens of the state may find themselves arrested and subject to severe repercussions very fast. But the severity of these punishments can change depending on the specifics of your arrest. According to the Institute for Traffic Safety Management and Research, from 2015 to 2019, at least 30,000 persons were detained in New York for driving while intoxicated.

The state has one of the most extensive and stringent “driving while intoxicated” (DWI) legal systems in the country. An arrest for driving while impaired can lead to life-changing penalties: jail, fines, and revocation of your New York driver’s license. If you are looking to know more about First DWI or DWAI offense in New York then you are on the right page.

In this article, will outline all you need to know about the first DWI or DWAI offense in New York State.

DWAI Offenses in New York

For the purposes of the DWAI statute in New York, “ability impaired” refers to a person’s physical and mental capacities, which are necessary for “reasonable and prudent” driving, being affected to “any amount.”

There are three types of DWAI offenses. It’s unlawful for a person to drive a vehicle while their ability is impaired by the:

  • consumption of alcohol (“Alcohol-DWAI”)
  • use of a drug (“Drug-DWAI”), or
  • use of a combination of alcohol and drugs (“Combination-DWAI”).

It is assumed that if a defendant’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is.05% or less, drinking alcohol did not affect their capacity to drive. But a defendant is assumed to have DWAI if their blood alcohol content (BAC) is.07% or higher but less than.08%. There is no presumption that the defendant was impaired if their blood alcohol concentration was in the medium, meaning they had a BAC of higher than.05% but less than.07%.

DWI Offenses in New York

A motorist commits a DWI offense by operating a vehicle:

  • in an intoxicated condition (“DWI”), or
  • with a BAC of .08% or more (“DWI per se”).

The definition of “intoxicated condition” under New York’s DWI legislation is impairment to the point where the defendant is unable to use the physical and mental skills that are necessary for “reasonable and prudent” driving.

The defendant often commits DWI per se if they drive while having a blood alcohol content of.08% or above. However, if a commercial driver is caught driving with a BAC of.04% or above, they may be found guilty of DWI. Additionally, drivers under the age of 21 who have a BAC of.02% or above may be charged with DWI.

Administrative Penalties

Revocation and suspension of a license. A driver is compelled to submit to a chemical test under New York’s implied consent legislation if an officer has cause to suspect that they have committed a DWAI or DWI.

Any driver whose blood alcohol content (BAC) was.08% or higher will have their license suspended by the court at the arraignment (the first court appearance) while the criminal case is ongoing. In anticipation of the conclusion of a Department of Motor Vehicles (“DMV”) hearing, the court will suspend the driver’s license. The DMV will suspend the driver’s license for a year if the rejection is upheld at the hearing.

A “conditional license” or “hardship privilege,” which permits driving under specific circumstances during the suspension or revocation period, may be obtained by eligible offenders.

Civil penalty. A motorist whose license is revoked for refusing to submit to a chemical test must pay a $500 civil penalty.

Criminal Penalties

The sanctions imposed for a first offense of alcohol-DWAI are often less severe than those for other convictions for driving while intoxicated. First convictions for DWI as a whole, DWI, Drug-DWAI, and Combination-DWAI, however, are considered misdemeanor offenses.

Penalties for First Alcohol-DWAI Convictions

Jail and fines. An Alcohol-DWAI conviction carries a maximum sentence of 15 days in jail and/or a fine of $300 to $500.

License suspension. The court will impose a 90-day driver’s license suspension for a first Alcohol-DWAI conviction. A defendant who participates in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program can usually apply for a conditional license during the term of the suspension.

Penalties for First DWI, Drug-DWAI, and Combination-DWAI Convictions

Jail and fines. The maximum jail sentence for first a DWI, Drug-DWAI, and Combination-DWAI is one year. In addition to or instead of a jail sentence, the court can impose a fine of $500 to $1,000. (Motorists with a BAC of .18% or more can face the more serious charge of aggravated DWI.)

License revocation. The defendant’s license will be revoked for six months as the result of a first DWI, Drug-DWAI, or Combination-DWAI conviction. Defendants who participate in a rehabilitation program are generally eligible for a conditional license.

Ignition interlock device. A defendant who’s convicted of DWI or DWI per se must complete a term of probation or conditional discharge. As a condition of probation, the defendant must install and maintain an ignition interlock device (IID) in any vehicle that he or she owns or operates. Depending on the circumstances, the defendant will have to use the IID for a minimum of six months or one year.

Additional Penalties for DWI and DWAI Convictions

Alcohol/drug screening, assessment, and treatment

Offenders of DWI and DWAI are typically required to submit to a screening for alcohol and drug addiction. The court will demand that a formal substance abuse assessment be completed if the screening reveals that the offender abuses or is dependent on alcohol or drugs. If the evaluation reveals alcohol or drug misuse or dependency, the defendant must finish treatment.

Victim impact program

DWI and DWAI offenders may be ordered by the court to participate in a victim impact program (“VIP”). A VIP is a single session where presentations are presented about the effects of operating a vehicle while intoxicated or high.

Driver responsibility assessment

Each driver who refuses to submit to a chemical test or is found guilty of a DWI or DWAI conviction is required to pay a $250 driver responsibility assessment over the course of three years. A driver’s license suspension is the result of non-payment of the assessment, and it lasts up until full payment is made.

Misdemeanor/felony surcharge

The misdemeanor/felony surcharges are legally required fines one must pay on top of those awarded as part of their first sentence upon conviction in order to further deter the committing of DWI offenses.

Crime victim assistance fee

Levied in addition to the fees ordered as part of one’s initial sentence upon conviction, the crime victim assistance fee contributes to funds reserved for the State’s compensation of victims of crimes.

Ignition interlock device

court-ordered equipment that the driver must pay for and install, effectively a breathalyzer connected to the ignition system of the vehicle. Before enabling the ignition to start, the device checks the driver’s breath for the presence of alcohol.

Sentencing Alternatives for a First-time DWI Conviction

While the potential of facing many of the punishments for a first-time DWI conviction is terrifying for people who are suspected of the crime, the list of fines does not fully convey the situation. One of the main advantages of hiring a seasoned DWI lawyer is their ability to fight for leniency during the sentencing phase. One can persuade a judge to forgo some optional penalties entirely in favor of less severe alternative punishments, in addition to persuading the judge to sentence someone found guilty of a DWI crime to less severe punishment from within the legal ranges. Several instances include:

  • House arrest: Being confined to one’s home with monitoring by an electronic device. The terms can be negotiated to allow one to continue to go to work and other necessary appointments.
  • Rehab: Entering a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program to deal with one’s substance abuse problems. 
  • Community service: Being required to perform a specified number of hours of work on a project within the community, usually one approved by the court.
  • Weekend jail: If one is to receive jail time, it can be negotiated that one serves their term in increments by going to jail only on weekends.
  • Optional additional penalties:  As shown in the table above, these would include options such as an ignition interlock device.

What Happens After One is Arrested for a DWI?

After a person is arrested for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), the following steps usually occur:

  1. Booking: The individual is processed at a police station, where personal information is recorded, and a mug shot is taken.
  2. Bail: If the person is eligible, they may be able to post bail and be released from custody until their court date.
  3. Initial Appearance: The individual will appear in court for an initial hearing, where the charges are read, and the judge may set bail and schedule future court dates.
  4. Arraignment: The individual will enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest.
  5. Pretrial Motions: The defense attorney may file motions to suppress evidence or dismiss the charges.
  6. Trial: If the case goes to trial, the prosecution and defense will present their evidence, and a judge or jury will determine guilt or innocence.
  7. Sentencing: If the individual is found guilty, the judge will impose a sentence, which may include fines, community service, jail time, or other penalties.

Note: The specific steps may vary depending on the jurisdiction and the circumstances of the case.

How to Get a DWI Dismissed

There is no guaranteed way to get a Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) charge dismissed, but there are several defenses that a person charged with DWI may use to try to have the charges dropped or reduced. Some of these defenses include:

  1. Lack of probable cause: The police must have a valid reason to pull the person over and make an arrest. If the stop was made without sufficient probable cause, the evidence gathered during the stop may be suppressed.
  2. Faulty breath test: Breathalyzer tests can be unreliable, and the results can be challenged if the device was not properly calibrated or if the person taking the test had certain medical conditions.
  3. Improper field sobriety tests: Field sobriety tests are subjective and can be challenged if the officer did not follow proper procedure or if the person taking the test had a physical condition that impacted their performance.
  4. Illegal search and seizure: The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects individuals from unreasonable searches and seizures. If the police violated this amendment, the evidence gathered may be suppressed.

It is important to note that these defenses can be complex and challenging to prove, and it is advisable to consult with an experienced DWI defense attorney who can evaluate the facts of the case and build a strong defense strategy. An attorney may be able to negotiate with the prosecution for a reduction in charges or a plea deal or represent the individual in court to challenge the evidence and fight for a favorable outcome.

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