Man drinking beer in a car

Although drunk driving is never a wise or safe choice, people’s judgments aren’t always flawless and mistakes are inevitable. A DWI conviction leaves a bad stain on your record, and with each drug violation, your prospects get grimmer.

Depending on your prior driving record and the charge’s severity, you might be looking at license suspension or permanent revocation, possible jail time, steep fines, and a bleak future. DWI means Driving While Intoxicated In New York state, with intoxication being through drugs or alcohol. A DWI violation happens when you drive with a blood alcohol content of 0.08% or more.

Suppose you’re facing drug violations in New York; note that it’s a serious offense even as a first-time offender. However, in New York, you can also be charged with driving while ability impaired (DWAI) if your BAC is between 0.05% to 0.07%. Thankfully, DWAI is a slightly less severe offense.

Are you interested in knowing more about the New York DWAI violation or the more severe DWI and its penalties, this ultimate guide to New York driving while intoxicated DWI will explain all you need to know? Keep reading!

Types of DWI in New York

If you’re facing a drunk driving charge in New York, you’ll need to understand the differences between a DWAI and a DWI. DWAI stands for “driving while ability impaired,” while DWI means “driving while intoxicated.”

Although the differences are small, they’re significant. For instance, DWI charges happen if your BAC is 0.08% or more, while DWAI occurs if your BAC is between 0.05 to 0.07% and comes with fewer penalties.

A DWI requires a 0.08% BAC or more for private vehicles or 0.04% BAC or more for commercial motor vehicles. A New York driver can get a DWI charge if impaired to a ” substantial extent.”

On the other hand, a New York driver with more than a 0.18% BAC or driving with an underaged child (less than 15 years) will face an aggravated DWI violation.

An alcohol DWAI charge means you don’t have the prudent and reasonable ability to drive an automobile and thus will face a driving while intoxicated charge due to alcohol. On the other hand, you can get a Drug DWAI in New York if suspected of having drugs in your system, which has taken away your ability to be a reasonable and prudent driver.

Lastly, a combination of DWAI means that the offender’s ability to drive prudently and reasonably is by “to any extent” impaired as shown by the aggravated driving exhibited by the driver. The significant difference between a DWI and a DWAI is the impairment amount, although the latter is a secondary offense.

DWI Arrest Probable Causes

If you’ve been arrested for DWI in New York State, there are some things the DWI attorney you hire will need to assess to ensure your DWI charge is legal and legitimate. For instance, your attorney must look at probable cause, a term that has different meanings to different parties in the case and one of the major elements of an arrest.

For a law enforcement officer to pull you over, they will need to have probable cause. In other words, the police can’t pull you over due to the neighborhood you are in or your car’s color. There should be a valid reason, called the probable cause.

A skilled attorney will help you fight a DWI charge, whether there’s probable cause for the arrest or not, using different defense strategies to get your case reduced or thrown out entirely.

For instance, the attorney can argue that the police officer pulled over the vehicle illegitimately, leading to a hearing (People versus Ingle Hearing). Here, the attorney will determine if the officer had legal probable cause to pull you over or not.

A policewoman pulling a suspected drunk driver over to take a field sobriety test

Field Sobriety Tests and Blood Alcohol Content

Your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is the alcohol percentage in your bloodstream. New York State DWI has different BAC levels and limits.

For example, there’s a 0.08% legal limit for private car drivers over 21 years old. On the other hand, if you drive a commercial motor vehicle, your legal limit is 0.04%. However, drivers less than 21 years have a legal BAC limit of 0.02%.

Our bodies metabolize and process alcohol at various rates, so there’s no way to determine the number of drinks an individual will consume to reach the state’s legal BAC limit. While there are BAC charts online based on a person’s weight to help calculate it, they aren’t always correct.

To be on the safe side, consider drinking less when you go to a bar. Field sobriety tests can occur in three ways in New York. First, the officer might administer some physical tests to enable them to discover if you’re intoxicated and the degree of intoxication.

Under the New York DWI/DWAI law, a law enforcement officer can determine if you’re driving while intoxicated without doing any of the remaining two tests.

The New York police can also charge you for driving while impaired if they observe some signs indicating intoxication, such as an unsteady gait, bloodshot or watery eyes, flushed cheeks, or an alcoholic smell.

The second field sobriety test is the breath test. In this test, the arresting officer will request you to blow into a breathalyzer machine for a specific period. The breathalyzer will analyze the breath to determine the extent of your intoxication. Once it’s at or higher than the legal limit, you’ll face a DWI charge.

The last field sobriety test is the chemical test, which entails samples of the driver’s bodily fluid like urine or blood collected and tested to discover the BAC level. However, the test will be conducted at a hospital or police department following the arrest.

Suppose you’re stopped and suspected of aggravated driving in New York, the police might also ask you to undergo a blood alcohol test. Although it might involve a breathalyzer test, it could be a saliva, urine, or blood test.

An officer in New York has “implied consent” to ask for a chemical blood alcohol test if there’s probable cause that the driver was drunk driving. Naturally, driving in New York means you’re impliedly consenting to chemical tests if an officer suspects you of being impaired.

There are two stages of blood alcohol testing in line with New York DWI laws. The first is the pre-arrest breath test called the portable breath test (PBT). You’ll be required to undergo this test if the arresting officer has probable cause that you were driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs.

While PBTs aren’t more accurate and reliable than the main testing conducted at the police station or hospital, the officer can’t use them in a DWI trial as evidence. The cop will ask for chemical testing at the police station after your arrest. Subsequently, you can request another test from your preferred doctor.

A toxicologist checking the blood sample of a suspected drunk driver who refused to take a field sobriety test

Declining Field Sobriety Tests

New York officers have some tools to help them determine if a driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. One such tool is called the field sobriety test.

Field sobriety exercises come in different forms, including the one-legged stand, finger count, the alphabet, or the walk-and-turn. Thankfully, the law doesn’t mandate you to take these tests.

You can tell the cop that you don’t want to do the exercises and respectfully ask them to allow you to contact a criminal defense attorney immediately. Besides the field sobriety exercises, you’ll be required to undergo chemical tests, which entail a breathalyzer test or samples of your blood or urine.

However, while it’s within your right to refuse the chemical tests, New York DWI/DWAI law allows for additional penalties for such chemical test refusal. Seeing as chemical tests are essential for preparing the prosecution’s case against you, a chemical test refusal leads to an automatic one-year driver’s license suspension.

Suppose you’ve been convicted of a previous alcohol drug violation in the last five years or refused to test; your driver’s license will get revoked for at least 18 months. If you’ve had two prior DWI convictions or chemical test refusal within the last five years, it might lead to a permanent revocation of your driver’s license.

Suppose you refused to take a breath test, ensure to hire a skilled DWI attorney as soon as you can. Note that the police officer will warn you about your driver’s license suspension for one year following your refusal to take the blood alcohol tests.

After that, you’ll need to pay a fine of $500 for first-time refusal and $750 if you’ve had a DWI conviction within the last five years or for your second refusal.

DMV Refusal Hearing

When arrested for DWI and you refuse to take the blood alcohol tests, you’ll have to present yourself before the arraigning court. During this time, the judge will learn that you refused to submit to the tests by the arresting officer.

You’ll be asked to appear at a department of motor vehicles (DMV) refusal hearing within 15 days of prosecution. Ensure you contact an experienced attorney familiar with DMV hearings immediately after you hear of the date to enable your lawyer to prepare adequately before going for the hearing.

Note that the arresting officer will try to prove that they stopped you because you exhibited signs of driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs, you were requested to take a chemical test, and you refused.

Once the arresting officer proves all three, there’s a high possibility that your license will get revoked unless your lawyer can capitalize on some extenuating circumstances to prove the officer wrong.

A woman in jail for drunk driving

DWI Offenses and Penalties

Driving while impaired charge might be a felony or misdemeanor in New York. While a first DWI charge is a drug or alcohol-related misdemeanor, having prior alcohol or drug related violation could lead to a felony charge.

A DWI might lead to jail time; however, first-time offenders have no minimum jail time to serve. On the other hand, a second DWI conviction has five to 30 days of community service. Lastly, the third conviction in New York attracts a minimum of 10 days to 60 days of community service.

Besides the jail term, the DWI charge also comes with expensive fines. For example, a first-time offense comes with a $500 to $1,000 fine, while a second-time violation will attract a fine of $500 to $5,000. Lastly, third-time offenders will pay a $500 to $10,000 fine.

Even if it’s your first time having a DWI charge, you can lose your license. Second-time offense comes with at least a one-year suspension, and a third-time DWI offense might lead to at least six years of license revocation.

Whether it’s your first DWI or not, you’ll also need to install in your vehicle an ignition interlock device (IID) for a specific period.

Your First DWI Offense

A first DWI offense attracts a fine from $500 to $1,000 with a possible one-year jail term. You might also lose your driving license for at least six months.

Suppose you’re under 21; your license revocation might be up to a year or until you’re 21 years old. New York practices zero tolerance law for underage DWIs.

Your Second DWI Offense

Suppose you’re facing a second DWI within ten years; New York DWI law classifies it as a Class E felony with fines ranging from $1,000 to $5,000. Second-time DWI offenders might get up to a four-year jail sentence and their driving license revoked for at least a year.

Drivers under 21 years can lose their driver’s license for at least one year or until their 21st birthday due to New York’s zero tolerance law for the underaged.

Your Third DWI Offense

Third-time DWI or DWAI offenses within ten years will classify as Class D felony with fines ranging from $2,000 to $10,000 and up to seven years jail sentence.

Just like a second DWI offense, your license can get revoked for at least one year. Also, if you’re under 21 years, the same penalties apply for DWAI drug related convictions in the first and second DWI violations.

Additional Penalties

Besides the above consequences, you could also receive a probation period of almost three years, a possible license revocation of at least six months, and a yearly $250 driver responsibility assessment.

Lastly, the court will ask you to install in your car an ignition interlock device (IID) for at least six months or attend the Victim Impact Panel.

A car accident caused by aggravated driving

Felony DWI

New York DWI law comes with strict penalties for drivers that commit a second DWI within ten years of their first conviction, and the offense classifies as a Class E felony.

Although alcohol-related offenses aren’t felony-level charges, there are some situations where they might likely fall into felonies, which are very serious charges.

An aggravated DWI violation conviction that involves causing a serious injury to another while drunk driving is vehicular assault. Typically, aggravated vehicular assault carries a Class E felony. The penalties range from one to four years jail term and up to $5,000.

Any drug or alcohol related driving offenses that involve killing someone will fall under a vehicular manslaughter charge, which is a Class D felony attracting a seven years jail term and a fine of up to $5,000.

Aggravated DWI in New York

An aggravated DWI within ten years will classify as a Class E felony with a fine ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 and a possible jail sentence of four years. Also, you might lose your license for 18 months or more.

Aggravated DWI in New York

When charged with aggravated DWI within ten years, you’ll face a Class D felony with a fine of about $2,000 to $10,000 and seven years of possible jail time. Also, you’ll lose your license for at least 18 months.

DWI / DWAI-Drug in New York

If facing a second time Driving While Ability Impaired by a Drug rather than alcohol (“DWAI-Drug”) or Second offense DWI within ten years, (a Class E felony), your penalties will include a $1,000 to $5,000 possible fine and up to four years jail sentence.

Additionally, you’ll lose your driver’s license for a minimum of one year. Subsequent DWAI-Drug and a Driving While Ability Impaired by Combination of Alcohol or Drugs (“DWAI-Combination”) charges will attract other penalties that apply to Class D and Class E felonies.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will a DWI Conviction Make me Lose My License?

This question is one of the complicated areas in New York DWI law because there are factors that will determine if you’ll face license revocation or not. These factors differ according to the individual and case. However, your DWI defense attorney will educate you on them.

What’s the Difference Between DWAI and DWI?

A DWAI is a violation with 15 days of jail time as the penalty, while DWI violations are unclassified drug or alcohol related misdemeanors that can attract a one-year jail term.

What Happens If I Insist on Not Taking a Field Sobriety Test?

Refusal to take field sobriety tests in New York will lead to immediate consequences. Motorists in New York are under implied consent to abide by the laws, so while the police can’t coerce you into taking the exercises, you’ll suffer punishments that will affect your life drastically.

Besides the New York state department prosecution team using chemical test refusal against you during the proceeding, you’ll also have to deal with your license getting suspended pending prosecution, whether it’s your first offense or not.

Driving while impaired in New York has severe consequences

Are There More Penalties While Using Ignition Interlock Device (IID)?

Once you’re convicted of the following offenses while still wearing your IID, you’ll face a Class A misdemeanor charge, regarded as a criminal offense:

  • Operating a vehicle without using the IID ordered by the court
  • Altering, tampering with, or bypassing an ignition interlock device ordered by the court
  • Requesting, soliciting, or allowing someone to blow into an IID installed by court order

Can a Judge Give Me a Hardship License in New York?

Suppose you’re charged and prosecuted for drug-related violations, you might face license revocation. Nevertheless, the judge might reinstate your driving privileges by issuing a hardship license after considering some factors.

According to the Vehicle and Traffic Law, the judge can grant you after hearing a conditional license that will help you drive to work if the suspended license brings extreme hardship to you.

Final Thoughts

DWI is a very serious crime in New York that can strip you of many privileges. The truth is, your BAC level doesn’t lie in your ability to drive a vehicle but in your body’s metabolic reaction to the alcohol you consume. Once your BAC is over 0.05%, you’ve broken the New York DWAI offenses, especially if you are below 21years.

Although people sometimes make choices that appear innocuous at the time, they might turn out to be wrong in hindsight. Suppose you decided to go home after one or two drinks, confident that you have a 0.05% BAC level. You might be surprised to get a DWI or DWAI arrest.

It only takes a police officer pulling you over (there’s a 50% chance of getting pulled over) to get a DUI conviction if the officer proves beyond reasonable doubt that you were driving while impaired with alcohol or drugs.

Suppose you recently moved to New York or are currently facing a DWI charge; this guide on New York DWI/DWAI laws will come in handy to keep you on the right side of the law.

Are you or a loved one currently facing a DWI charge in New York? The best thing to do is to hire a DWI defense attorney to get the judge to reduce the sentence or have the charge thrown out of court.

Most law firms offer free consultation, so you might want to take your time to find one that will employ tested DWI defense strategies to get you off the hook. Our experienced and highly skilled DWI attorneys are available to help you navigate the murky waters of DWI/DWAI laws in New York. Contact us today to hear your case and get started with your defense.

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