New York has the some of the toughest criminal DWI laws in the country and drunk driving has become one of the most aggressively prosecuted crimes in New York State.  Even a first-time DWI may trigger jail time, license suspension, alcohol screening and treatment programs, mandatory ignition interlock, fines and other penalties. A repeat arrest for drinking and driving with a child in a vehicle will very likely be charged as a felony.

Dual Process When Facing DWI Charges In New York

When facing DWI charges in New York, you can expect to go through a criminal process in court and an administrative process through the Department of Motor Vehicles. The sooner you contact an attorney after your arrest, the better in order to preserve your rights and contest the suspension of your driver’s license.

Under New York law, a driver’s license will be suspended at arraignment. Our attorneys can challenge the suspension and help you obtain a hardship license, which allows you to drive to and from work, to medical appointments, and to and from court. Hardship licenses are often granted if you have not had a prior DWI/DWAI conviction in the last 5 years.  We also strive to minimize and overcome the collateral consequences for a professional license, commercial driver’s license (CDL), immigration status, and employment. For every client, our firm meticulously investigates each case and assesses the best options; getting the charges dismissed or reduced, assessing diversionary options or aggressively litigating the case at trial.

There are several different classifications of drunk driving charges:

Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI):This is the least serious DWI offense in New York and is considered a traffic infraction. You will be charged with a DWAI if you are impaired by the consumption of alcohol and your BAC is at least .05% but less than .08%.  The potential penalties for a first DWAI are a fine up to $500, a 90 day license suspension, up to 15 days in jail.  However, this type of conviction does not give a criminal record.

DWI: You will be charged with a misdemeanor DWI when you BAC is at least a .08%.  The possible penalties for a DWI include a between a $500-$1,000 fine, Probation up to 3 years, license revocation for six months, and a sentence of up to one year in jail.  A conviction for a misdemeanor DWI would result in a criminal record.

Aggravated DWI: You can be charged with a felony when your BAC is .18% BAC or above.  The possible penalties for this type of case include a fine up to $2,500, one year license revocation, a sentence of up to one year in jail and an Interlock Ignition device installed on all vehicles owned or used by the defendant.

Felony DWI: You can be charged with a Felony DWI if you have a prior conviction for DWI within the past 10 years, or if a child 15 years or younger was a passenger in the car. Potential sentences include a $1,000-$5,000 fine, Probation for up to 5 years, a License revocation up to one year, a mandatory Ignition interlock device and a sentence of up to 4 years in state prison.

Felony DWI/Leandra’s Law: Under Leandra’s law, driving drunk with a child under the age of 16 in the car is an automatic felony and is punishable by up to four years in prison.

Additional laws have been implemented that impose staggering penalties for DWI convictions.  Mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device can be ordered on every car registered to the home address.  New York has also instituted enhanced penalties for aggravated DWI (.18 or higher BAC) and shortened the look back for repeat offenses to five years.  The NYPD now routinely seizes a vehicle after they are arrested for a DUI and is held by the Civil Forfeiture Unit.  New York Courts also will mandate that a defendant wear a SCRAM (Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitor) bracelet for a period of time, which can cost a thousands of dollars.

Our firm works to minimize our clients’ exposure to the different facets of DWI penalties.  For a first-time offender, this could mean litigating the case to have all charges dismissed or entering a diversionary program to avoid a criminal conviction. In other types of cases, our firm will negotiate with the District Attorney’s Office for a lesser offense such as driving while impaired (DWAI), which would protect a client from a criminal record and allows for a smaller fine to be paid and a shorter license suspension period.

Even if your BAC level is above the legal limit, there are many ways to challenge a DWI case.

Improper Traffic Stop: If the police officer did not have probable cause to believe you committed a crime and pulled you over, any evidence collected can be challenged as inadmissible in court.

Inaccurate Breathalyzer Test Results: New York uses a type of breath-testing machine that often times can produce false results based on a number of different variables including: medical conditions, improper testing by the arresting officer or the use of a device that was not properly calibrated or maintained.

Unreliable Blood Test Results: Questions can be raised as to whether or not the blood test were tampered with or mishandled in the chain of custody.

Violation of Civil Rights:  If the arresting officer failed to read you your Miranda rights, any admission of guilt or evidence collected subsequently may be inadmissible.

With the enhanced penalties and stronger enforcement, it is essential to hire experienced representation. Our firm will review videos taken from the police vehicle, which can demonstrate errors in how field sobriety tests were administered or the subjectivity of the results. We will seek out independent analysis of breath tests, blood tests and other chemical test results, which may indicate a discrepancy in the blood alcohol content (BAC) level of the driver.  We will also analyze accuracy of testing machines to determine if the test produced a high BAC result due to improper calibration of the Breathalyzer or improper administration of the breath test.