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  • DUI & DWI in New York

    Introduction

    Drunk driving, formally called driving while intoxicated (DWI) in New York, is a serious crime. NY will suspend your license, impose expensive fines, and even put you in jail if you drink and drive.

    New York DWI Defined

    To determine whether you’re legally driving while intoxicated, the state uses your blood alcohol concentration, or BAC.

    Law enforcement will charge you with DWI if your BAC is:

    • 0.08% and you’re 21 years old or older.
    • 0.04% and you’re driving a commercial motor vehicle.
    • 0.02% and you’re younger than 21 years old.

    Additional Drug and Alcohol Crimes

    DWI is just one charge associated with driving under the influence.

    Depending on your BAC and other factors, you could face:

    • DWAI/Alcohol: The name for Driving While Ability Impaired specifically by alcohol.
    • DWAI/Drugs: The specific name for Driving While Ability Impaired by a drug other than alcohol.
    • DWAI/Combination: The specific name for Driving While Ability Impaired by both alcohol and other drugs.
    • Aggravated DWI (A-DWI): Being charged with aggravated driving by having a 0.18% BAC or higher.

    Penalties for these additional drug and alcohol crimes vary, as do those for other related crimes, like chemical test refusal and breaking the Zero Tolerance Law.

    Understand Your DWI Penalties

    Your DWI penalties depend on factors like:

    • Your age.
    • The substance impairing you (alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both).
    • Your driver’s license (regular passenger license vs. a special license like a CDL).
    • Whether you submitted to a chemical test.

    DWI Penalties: Younger Than 21

    If you’re younger than 21 years old and you’re caught driving with a BAC of 0.02% or higher, you’ve broken NY’s Zero Tolerance Law.

    1st Offense

    • Suspended license for 6 months.
    • $125 civil penalty.
    • $100 fee for suspension termination.
    • Possible enrollment in the New York Drinking Driver Program (DDP) and all the associated costs (see below).
    • Possible ignition interlock device installation, and all associated costs (see below).

    2nd Offense

    • License revocation for 1 year (or until you turn 21 years old).
    • $125 civil penalty.
    • $100 fee for suspension termination.
    • Possible enrollment in the New York Drinking Driver Program (DDP) and all the associated costs (see below).
    • Possible ignition interlock device installation, and all associated costs (see below).

    Please see “Chemical Test Refusal" below to find out how NY handles drivers younger than 21 years old who refuse the chemical test.

    DWI Penalties: 21 and Older

    DWAI/Alcohol

    1st Offense

    • License suspension for 90 days.
    • A $300 - $500 fine.
    • A minimum $250 annual assessment fine, for a total of $750 in fines over 3 years. This is part of the state’s Driver Responsibility Program.
    • Up to 15 days in jail.
    • Possible enrollment in the New York Drinking Driver Program (DDP) and all the associated costs (see below).

    2nd Offense

    If you get a second DWAI/Alcohol charge in 5 years, you face:

    • License revocation for at least 6 months.
    • A $500 - $750 fine.
    • A minimum $250 annual assessment fine, for a total of $750 in fines over 3 years. This is part of the state’s Driver Responsibility Program.
    • Up to 30 days in jail.
    • Possible enrollment in the New York Drinking Driver Program (DDP) and all the associated costs (see below).

    DWI and DWAI/Drugs

    DWI and DWAI/Drugs carry the same penalties.

    1st Offense

    • DWI: License revocation for 6 months.
    • DWAI: License suspension for 6 months.
    • A $500 - $1,000 fine.
    • A minimum $250 annual assessment fine, for a total of $750 in fines over 3 years. This is part of the state’s Driver Responsibility Program.
    • Up to 1 year in jail.
    • Possible enrollment in the New York Drinking Driver Program (DDP) and all the associated costs (see below).

    2nd Offense

    You face these penalties if you commit another DWI or DWAI/Drugs offense within 10 years of the first violation:

    • License revocation for at least 1 year.
    • A $1,000 - $5,000 fine.
    • A minimum $250 annual assessment fine, for a total of $750 in fines over 3 years. This is part of the state’s Driver Responsibility Program.
    • Up to 4 years in jail, with a minimum of 5 days in jail or 30 days of community service.
    • A Class E felony.
    • Possible enrollment in the New York Drinking Driver Program (DDP) and all the associated costs (see below).

    DWAI/Combination

    DWAI/Combination means you were driving under the influence of both alcohol and drugs.

    1st Offense

    • License revocation for at least 6 months.
    • A $500 - $1,000 fine.
    • A minimum $250 annual assessment fine, for a total of $750 in fines over 3 years. This is part of the state’s Driver Responsibility Program.
    • Up to 1 year in jail.
    • Possible enrollment in the New York Drinking Driver Program (DDP) and all the associated costs (see below).

    2nd Offense

    A second offense DWAI/Combination is when you are charged again within 10 years of the last conviction.

    • License revocation for at least 1 year (18 months).
    • A $1,000 - $5,000 fine.
    • A minimum $250 annual assessment fine, for a total of $750 in fines over 3 years. This is part of the state’s Driver Responsibility Program.
    • Up to 4 years in jail.
    • Class E Felony.
    • Possible enrollment in the New York Drinking Driver Program (DDP) and all the associated costs (see below).

    Aggravated DWI

    If your BAC is 0.18% or higher, you’ll get an Aggravated DWI―or A-DWI.

    1st Offense

    • License revocation for at least 1 year.
    • A $1,000 - $2,500 fine.
    • A minimum $250 annual assessment fine, for a total of $750 in fines over 3 years. This is part of the state’s Driver Responsibility Program.
    • Up to 1 year in jail.
    • Possible enrollment in the New York Drinking Driver Program (DDP) and all the associated costs (see below).

    2nd Offense

    A second offense in 10 years brings:

    • License revocation for at least 18 months.
    • A $1,000 to $5,000 fine.
    • A minimum $250 annual assessment fine, for a total of $750 in fines over 3 years. This is part of the state’s Driver Responsibility Program.
    • Up to 4 years in jail.
    • A Class E Felony.
    • Possible enrollment in the New York Drinking Driver Program (DDP) and all the associated costs (see below).

    Commercial Drivers

    CDL holders cannot legally operate commercial vehicles with a BAC of 0.04% or higher. Doing so brings much more severe penalties than those that regular passenger drivers experience―fines are higher and permanent license revocation is swifter.

    Generally, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) handles all regulations and penalties associated with commercial vehicle drivers throughout the country.

    Other DWI Penalties

    Chemical Test Refusal Penalties

    Per NY’s Implied Consent Law, you give your consent to have your blood, breath, urine, or saliva tested for alcohol or drugs if an officer stops you.

    NOTE: In addition to the fines and other penalties listed below, anyone convicted of refusing a chemical test must also pay a minimum $250 annual assessment fine, for a total of $750 in fines over 3 years as part of the state’s Driver Responsibility Program.

    1st Offense

    • License revocation for at least 1 year (18 months for commercial drivers).
    • $500 civil penalty ($550 civil penalty for commercial drivers). You must pay this before you can reapply for your license.

    2nd Offense

    Refusing a chemical test within 5 years of a previous chemical test refusal or another DWI-related charge constitutes a second offense and carries the following penalties:

    • $750 civil penalty.
    • License revocation for at least 18 months (permanent CDL revocation).

    Zero Tolerance Chemical Test Refusal

    If you are younger than 21 years old and you violate the Zero tolerance law by refusing a chemical test, you face the following consequences:

    1st offense:

    • $300 civil penalty.
    • $100 to reapply for your license.
    • License revocation for at least 1 year.

    2nd offense:

    • $750 civil penalty.
    • $100 fee to reapply for your license.
    • License revocation for at least 1 year.

    NOTE: These penalties also apply to subsequent offenses.

    Ignition Interlock Device

    Your judge might order you to use an ignition interlock device (IID) as part of a probation and maybe to make you eligible for a conditional license.

    Generally, NY requires drivers to purchase and install their own IIDs. Drivers also are responsible for any costs related to the monthly fee, switching the IID to another vehicle, and uninstalling the IID.

    NY’s Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) handles all the nuts and bolts. For more information, visit the Division’s Ignition Interlock section or contact the DCJS at (518) 457-5837 or (800) 262-3257.

    Enrolling in the Drinking Driver Program

    New York’s Drinking Driver Program (DDP) is the state’s DWI program. It’s a DWI-specific traffic school that consists of weekly classroom sessions and the following enrollment fees:

    • $75 fee, made payable to the Department of Motor Vehicles.
    • Up to $225 in additional fees, made payable to the DDP program you attend and due on the first day of class.

    Certain situations, such as switching to another DWI school or dropping out and re-entering the program, lead to additional costs.

    Your judge and the DMV provide DDP information specific to your case. This is information you’ll find out in court, and having a DWI attorney on your side is beneficial.

    SR 22: Car Insurance and Proof of Financial Responsibility

    Unlike some other states, New York doesn’t require drivers with DWI convictions to file an SR 22, the financial responsibility certificate that shows you’re carrying the state’s required minimum liability insurance. However, that doesn’t mean you’re exactly off the hook.

    DWI convictions are red flags to car insurance companies, and most charge higher rates once you have a DWI conviction on your driving history.

    When it’s time to renew your liability coverage, check with your agent and find out if you’ll experience a rate increase. If so, you might find lower rates if you compare other insurance companies.

    When to Hire a DWI Attorney

    Most people end up in court after a DWI charge. Whether you plan to plead innocent or admit guilt, your best bet is to hire a DWI attorney―especially if your charge involves another serious crime such as:

    • Aggravated DWAI.
    • Vehicular homicide or manslaughter.

    As you search for an attorney, keep these tips in mind:

    • Choose an attorney based in New York, so he or she will be familiar with the state’s laws.
    • Make sure your attorney specializes in DWI cases. DWI attorneys are experts on the state’s DWI laws.
    • Ask the lawyer for information on past DWI cases they’ve had, and find out how they think your case compares to others―especially in terms of possible outcomes.

    Applying for a Conditional License

    All DWI offenses can leave you with a suspended license―but some drivers are eligible for temporary driving permits, called conditional licenses, which sometimes require IIDs.

    Typically, you can get a conditional license if:

    • This is your first DWI or DWAI conviction.
    • You enroll in the Drinking Driver Program.

    While the DMV determines whether you’re eligible for a conditional license, your judge can stop you from applying for one.

    Reinstate Your NY Driver’s License

    If you’re eligible for reinstatement (i.e. the DMV and court haven’t decided to permanently revoke your driving privileges), you must:

    • Pay all applicable fines.
    • Complete any jail time.
    • Successfully complete the Drinking Driver Program, if ordered, as well as any ordered alcohol or drug treatment programs.
    • Keep your ignition interlock device for the ordered amount of time, if applicable.
    • Finish your suspension or revocation period.
    • Pay the suspension termination fee, if ordered.

    For more details specific to your case, contact the DMV or the court handling your case.

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