Understanding legal penalties for drinking and driving in New York

Recently, the New York State Senate passed a bill that would link together the drinking and driving histories of boaters, motor vehicle drivers and recreational vehicle users in the state. The consequence of which is that a drunk driving conviction resulting from the operation of one vehicle would have implications for heavier legal penalties for another drunk driving conviction from a different mode of transport. Because of potential changes in the law like this, it's important to understand the legal penalties for driving under the influence in our state.

Penalties partly dependent on BAC

In New York, the type of legal penalties a driver may face for drinking and driving partly depend on the driver's blood alcohol content. The conviction that most people are familiar with is Driving While Intoxicated or DWI. To be charged for a DWI in New York, a driver must have a blood alcohol content of .08 percent or higher, and the first such offense is a misdemeanor. However, a driver can be convicted of drinking and driving offense if he or she has a lesser BAC. A driver can be convicted of Driving While Ability Impaired By Alcohol or DWAI, if he or she has a BAC of more than 0.05 percent up to .07 percent. In addition, a driver with a BAC of 0.18 or higher may face charges of Aggravated Driving While Intoxicated. Drivers convicted of first-time drunk driving offenses face fines and jail time. The higher the driver's BAC the stiffer the penalties.

Fines and jail

A driver convicted of a first-offense DWAI faces up to 15 days in jail and a fine of at least $300 up to $500. A driver convicted of a first-time DWI faces up to one year in jail and a minimum fine of $500 and a maximum fine of $1,000, and a driver convicted of his or her first Aggravated DWI faces up to a year in jail and a minimum fine of $1,000 and a maximum fine of $2,500. Drivers convicted of multiple drinking and driving offenses face increasing fines and jail time.

Additional penalties

Drivers convicted of drinking and driving in New York face other penalties as well. Any driver convicted of a drunk driving offense in New York is required to install and maintain an ignition interlock device on any vehicle owned. The driver must use the device for a minimum of six months and is responsible for the cost of installing and maintaining the device. New York drivers must also pay license penalties. These penalties are in addition to the legal fine for a drunk driving conviction and come in the form of a surcharge and mandatory fee for assistance to victims of crime in the state. Convicted drunk drivers also face the suspension or revocation of their driver's licenses.

Certain drivers face unique penalties

Certain types of drivers in New York face unique penalties for drinking and driving. Drivers under the age of 21 are subject to New York's "Zero Tolerance" law, which essentially means individuals not of drinking age cannot get behind the wheel with any amount of alcohol in their system. Drivers under the age of 21 also face stricter license penalties in addition to the penalties cited above. A drunk driving conviction in another state can impact the ability to drive in New York, and underage drivers face increased periods of license suspension and revocation.

Commercial drivers are also subject to special drinking and driving laws and penalties. In short, a commercial driver is held to a stricter BAC level than non-commercial drivers and face tougher penalties that can threaten a commercial driver's livelihood.

If you have been arrested for a drinking and driving offense in New York, contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who can explain and enforce your rights and ensure the police and prosecution meet their level of proof.

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