Drunk driving in New York state is a criminal offense that carries stiff penalties. As alcohol-related accidents surge across the nation, especially during the holidays, every state has enacted rigorous enforcement of strict, and sometimes restrictive, penalties.
Whether you are in upstate New York or Brooklyn, you will face similar procedures if you are stopped and arrested, so it helps to understand the process and what to expect. Of course, having effective and experienced legal representation is crucial for you to be able to defend yourself against charges and possibly minimize penalties.
Types of violations and penalties
There are several categories of drunk driving in New York, each determined by a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level and/or trace drug amounts determined by a chemical test after arrest:
- Driving while intoxicated (DWI), .08% BAC or higher (.04 BAC for commercial vehicle drivers)
- Aggravated Driving while intoxicated (Aggravated DWI), .18 BAC or higher
- Driving while ability impaired by alcohol (DWAI/Alcohol), .05 to .07 BAC
- Driving while ability impaired by a single drug other than alcohol (DWAI/Drugs)
- Driving while ability impaired by alcohol (DWAI/Combination)
A first conviction for any of the above can result in fines from $300 to $2,500, up to one year in jail and mandatory license revocation. These penalties compound with repeated convictions.
In addition, refusal to take breath, blood or urine test after arrest carries penalties, including a civil fine of $500 and driver’s license revocation for one year. New York also has a Zero Tolerance Law for drivers who are under the age of 21. A BAC level between .02 and .07 can lead to conviction and a $125 civil penalty with driver’s license suspension for six months.
Possible defenses to DWI charges
When the arresting officer initially pulls a driver over, it is on suspicion of drunk driving, which means that they do not at that point have any hard evidence. If the chemical test was not accurate or the officer did not administer it correctly, it cannot be used as evidence. If there were any irregularities to the arrest or search process, the officer may have violated the constitutional rights of the accused.
Law enforcement can sometimes be too quick to judge, and can disregard the circumstances surrounding an event. Depending on the unique circumstances of each case, it is possible to mount an effective defense to fight charges of drunk driving.