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Alcohol and drug-related driving offenses in New York

Driving an automobile while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a crime in New York. The severity of the crime and its punishment in the criminal law system depends upon the amount of alcohol (or drugs) in the driver's blood at the time of the arrest.

The most common crime involving drunk driving is Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). A blood alcohol content of 0.08% is the minimum threshold for conviction. Aggravated DWI is defined as operating a motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.18 or higher. A BAC level of 0.5 to 0.7% is the threshold for Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI). Driving while a person is impaired by either a single drug or a combination of drugs and alcohol is a crime, but the law does not prescribe any blood content measurement to establish guilt.

The severity of the penalty for a violation depends upon the BAC and any prior convictions for alcohol driving crimes. The complete list of penalties is too long for this relatively short blog, but a few examples will demonstrate the point. A first conviction for DWI is punishable by a mandatory fine of $500 - $1,000 and up to one year in jail. An aggravated DWI is punishable by a mandatory fine of $1,000 - $2,500 and up to one year in jail. A second aggravated DWI within 10 years is a felony, punishable by a fine of $1,000 - $5,000 and imprisonment for up to 4 years. Conviction of these crimes requires revocation of the driver's license for 6 months or more, depending upon the severity of the offense.

Drunk driving, even a first offense, is a serious crime. Its consequences can follow a person for almost for the rest of his or her life. Repeated violations can require a significant term of incarceration. Anyone who is charged with a DWI or any related crime may wish to consult a criminal defense lawyer who handles such cases. Such a consultation can provide a useful evaluation of the facts and law that will determine the case's outcome and an estimate of the likelihood of obtaining a favorable plea agreement or an outright acquittal.

Source: New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, "Penalties for alcohol or drug-related violations," accessed on June 3, 2017

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