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“Thank you for assuring me that just because a good honest person makes a mistake does not mean they have to be treated like a criminal!” — D.S.

New York’s different DWI laws

You already knew that drinking and driving is against the law in New York state. What you might not know is that there is more than one form of drinking and driving in the state’s criminal code. Depending on what you are charged with, the penalties you could face can range from losing your driver’s license for six months to several years in prison.

Here are the different levels of drinking and driving crimes in New York:

Crime Description
Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) Driving with a blood-alcohol level (BAL) of .08 or higher, or .04 or higher for commercial vehicle drivers
Driving While Ability Impaired by Alcohol (DWAI/Alcohol) Driving with a BAL below .07 but higher than .05
Aggravated DWI Driving with a BAL of .18 or above
Zero Tolerance Law Driving below 21 years old with a BAL of .02 to .07
Chemical Test Refusal Declining to submit to a breath, blood or urine test

The penalties

A first offense for DWI carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a fine of between $500 and $1,000 if you are convicted or plead guilty. The judge will also suspend your driver’s license for at least six months. A second offense within ten years is a class E felony, and could land you in prison for up to four years; for a third offense within 10 years, the maximum sentence is seven years.

Standard DWAI is a less serious crime. A first offense carries a maximum of 15 days in jail, a fine of $300-$500, and a suspended license for 90 days. However, if you are convicted of DWAI based on drug use or a combination of alcohol and drugs, the penalties are much steeper.

Finally, a first-time conviction for aggravated DWI can result in a jail term of up to one year and a fine of $1,000-$2,500, along with losing your driver’s license for one year. As with DWI, the sentences for a second and third conviction within ten years go up to four and seven years.

What you can do about a drinking and driving charge

With your freedom and driving privileges at stake, it is clear that you need strong legal advocacy on your side. A criminal defense attorney can help you confront the charges, fight to restore your driver’s license, and possibly keep you out of jail.

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