DWI/DUI (Driving While Intoxicated)
Most drivers are totally unaware of the fallout which awaits them after being arrested for and/or later convicted of a DWI related offense within New York State. Here are some basic things which I have learned over the years - which you need to be aware of:
1. A Conviction for DWI: A conviction for DWI (or driving while intoxicated) within New York State is a misdemeanor (it is a crime - and is on your permanent record). Driving while intoxicated means operating a motor vehicle on a public road with a blood alcohol content (or BAC) of .08 of one percent in your bloodstream. A second offense for DWI within a ten year time frame will be charged as a felony under New York State Law. The minimum level required for a conviction of operating a commercial vehicle while intoxicated is only .06 (not .08 of BAC).
2. A Conviction for DWAI: A conviction for DWAI (or driving while ability impaired) is a violation under the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law (it is not a crime). A motorist will be offered only one DWAI, circumstances permitting, within New York State. Any second offense will be treated as a misdemeanor, without exception. The minimum level required for a conviction of operating a commercial vehicle while impaired is only .04 (not .05 of BAC).
3. A Loss of Your Driver's License or Privileges: A conviction for DWI will result in a revocation of your New York State driver's license for a minimum six month period. A conviction for DWAI will result in a 90 day suspension (not a revocation). The main difference is that a suspension will end automatically, a revocation will not. If you are a commercial driver, your commercial driving privileges will be suspended for a minimum of one year, regardless of the type of vehicle you were operating at the time of arrest. The time frame for a suspension or revocation may be increased based upon a prior conviction for a DWI related offense and/or a BAC of .18% or greater (which constitutes the offense of Aggravated DWI).
4. Conditional Privileges (within the Discretion of the New York State DMV): The New York State DMV may, in its discretion, give you a conditional license if you are convicted of a DWI related offense. A conditional license, in substance, allows a person to travel to/from employment, school and/or medical necessities (for both yourself and members of your immediate family) and, within the discretion of the New York State DMV, three personal hours of driving per week. The granting of a conditional license requires attendance at the Drinking Driver Program (DDP) which is a seven week program costing $175.00. The cost of the conditional license which is tendered by DMV is $75.00. One should be aware that a motorist is entitled to a conditional license (within the New York State DMV discretion) only once in a five year period. A conviction of any violation, (except equipment violations - like noisy muffler) including failure to wear a seatbelt or cell phone results in a revocation of that conditional license for the remainder of the suspension or revocation time period.
5. Your Professional Licenses: If you are convicted of Felony DWI (after a prior DWI misdemeanor conviction) you will be subject to a loss of your professional licenses. These licenses include, but are not limited to, attorney's bar association licenses, broker's licences (including real estate, mortgage and stockbroker) and medical licenses.
6. Refusal to Give Breath/Blood/Urine Test When Asked by Police Officer at Scene: ANY refusal to give a chemical test when asked by a police officer at the scene of a DWI related arrest will result in a (non judicial) NYS DMV Hearing. If an invalid refusal is found at the DMV Hearing, it will result in a loss of your New York State driver's license (or privileges if you are an out of state driver) for a one year period and a $750.00 civil penalty. No conditional license will be permitted after a refusal finding. New York State does not recognize out of state refusals for New York State drivers stopped in a sister state.
7. Possible Jail or Probation: A conviction for DWI is punishable by a sentence of up to one year in jail in New York State. The likelihood of jail increases dramatically either for a high BAC reading or if additional factors are involved such as a personal injury or property damage accident, a reckless driving charge a high speeding or other factors, such as going through a red light in a crowded intersection. If the Court requires probation, probation on a misdemeanor is three years in length while felony probation is five years in length.
8. Causing Death or Serious Physical Injury: Causing the death or serious physical injury of another person while in an intoxicated condition is punishable in New York State by up to 20 years in State Prison.
9. Increased Insurance Rates: A conviction for DWI in New York State will be sent to your insurance company. A conviction for DWI can result in rate increases, not only to your own automobile insurance policy, but to your homeowner's and umbrella policies as well. This automobile insurance policy rate increase applies not only to you but to all of the members of your family as well - assuming your automobile insurance is not cancelled altogether.
10. Vehicle Forfeiture: In some New York State jurisdictions you will be subject to the double whammy of not only being charged with a crime and all the attendant factors, including possible jail time, but also the possible permanent loss of the car you are driving at the time you are arrested. You can imagine the problems that may cause you if you this occurs, particularly if it is an expensive vehicle, the sole family car, or a company car. I have been successful in fighting and preventing this in the past.
11. Other Possible Pitfalls You Should be Aware of: A conviction for DWI in New York State may result in a host of other problems for you including immigration issues, a finding against you in child support and/or child custody proceedings you may be involved in, the requirement that you surrender any existing firearms permits, a denial of workers' compensation claims and finally the possible result that your insurance company may disclaim coverage for injuries which you have suffered in an accident.