Long Island DWI Lawyer
What Happens after an Intoxicated Driving Charge?
If you, a friend, or a loved one have received a drunk driving charge, you are now likely trying to find answers. What does the charge mean? What are the penalties? What are the potential consequences. One of the first steps in preparing to defend against a charge for intoxicated driving is understanding what the charges mean according to the law and what they could mean for a driver’s future.
What are the Types of Drunk Driving Charges?
Depending upon a driver’s level of intoxication and how recently they last received a drunk driving offense, a driver can expect anything ranging from a fine and a short suspension on their license to years of jail time, a revoked license, and thousands of dollars in fines. New York law is, in many ways, more straightforward than other states when it comes to drunk driving penalties.
Driving While Ability Impaired by Alcohol (DWAI)
There is one aspect of New York’s laws that can confuse drivers from other states as well as those only familiar with the terms commonly used in the media: New York does not have a charge of Driving Under the Influence (DUI). This is the term commonly used in other states for the lower tier of intoxicated driving, but in New York, it has its own special category. New York’s stand-in for DUI in other states is Driving while Ability Impaired by Alcohol (DWAI).
A driver will receive this charge if blood alcohol content is greater than .05 but not yet .08. Other evidence of intoxication may also serve as proof to support a DWAI charge, even without a chemical test to determine blood alcohol levels. Commercial driving license holders should also be aware that this they are under greater scrutiny, and can receive a harsher charge than a DWAI, despite having a blood alcohol level between .05 and less than .08.
A first offense of DWAI can carry a penalty of $300 to $500, as many as 15 days in jail and a possible suspension of the driver’s license for up to 90 days. A second DWAI can carry a fine of $500 to $750 and potential jail time of 30 days. A third DWAI can lead to a fine of $750 to $1,500 and up to 180 days in jail. Both a second and third offense carry a revocation of the driver’s license for at least 60 months.
Driving While Intoxicated (DWI)
If someone has been found with a blood alcohol content of .08 or more while operating a vehicle, the driver can be charged with Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). For commercial drivers, however, a blood alcohol level of .04 is all that is necessary to warrant a DWI. Other evidence of impairment, which is more than just simple intoxication, can support a charge of DWI. Impairment is a step beyond simply smelling like alcohol, and may include impaired motor skills, slurred speech, and unsafe driving behavior.
A first offense for a DWI can lead to a fines anywhere from $500 to $1,000, up to one year in jail, and the revocation of the driver’s license for at least six months. A second offense is classified as a class E felony. It can mean a $1,000 to $5,000 fine, up to four years in prison and a license revoked for at least one year. For a third offense, the fines jump to $2,000 to $10,000, prison sentence increases to as much as seven years and the driver’s license may be revoked for at least one year. Third offenses are categorized as a class D felony.
Aggravated Driving While Intoxicated
An Aggravated DWI applies only when the driver has a .18 blood alcohol content or higher. An aggravated DWI can lead to a fine of at least $1,000 to as much as $2,500, up to one year in jail and a one-year revocation of the driver’s license.
With second and third offenses, the penalties increase. Fines can be as much as $5,000 for a second offense and between $2,000 to $10,000 for a third offense. Potential prison time may be as much as four years for a second offense and up to seven for a third. Both a second and a third offense can lead to a least an 18-month revocation of a driver’s license. As with DWI multiple offenses, a second Aggravated DWI is a class E felony and a third offense is a class D felony.
Driving While Ability Impaired by Drug or Combination
Alcohol is not the only way for someone to receive a DWAI charge. If a driver’s ability is impaired by another drug or a combination of alcohol and another drug can lead to a charge of Driving while Ability Impaired by a Single Drug other than Alcohol or Driving While Ability Impaired by a Combined Influence of Drugs or Alcohol.
The penalties for a DWAI for drugs or combination of drugs and alcohol are identical to those for a traditional DWI, including those for second and third offenses.
Other Related Charges
Some drivers refuse to take a chemical test of their breath, blood and/or urine. They will be charged with a Chemical Test Refusal and will face a $500 civil penalty for regular drivers. Commercial drivers could face a $550 fine. Regular vehicle drivers will have their license revoked for at least one year, while commercial drivers will have their license suspended for at least 18 months.
Drivers who are under the age of twenty-one will find themselves charged if their blood alcohol levels are between a .02 and a .07. These drivers have run afoul of the Zero Tolerance Law, and could face a $125 civil penalty and a suspension of their license for up to six months. To have the suspension terminated can also mean another $100 fee. A second violation of the zero tolerance law also carries a $125 civil penalty, but a driver’s license may be revoked for one year or until the driver is 21 years old. Drivers charged with a second offense will also be required to pay a $100 fee to reapply for a license.
When these two charges are combined, and a driver under the age of 21 refuses to submit to a breathalyzer test, the driver could face a $300 civil penalty for a first offense and $750 for the second. A driver’s license would also be suspended for at least one year and the driver would be required to pay a $100 re-application fee to obtain their license once again.
Can I Plead Guilty to Something Lower?
Drivers do have the option, if it is offered by the State, to plead guilty to a lesser intoxicated driving charge. Unfortunately, New York law limits just how low the plea may go. For instance, someone charged with an Aggravated DWI may be able to plead down to a DWI, or someone charged with a DWI may be able to plead down to a DWAI. Though many other states will allow drivers charged with various DUI charges to plead down to some form of reckless driving, New York generally limits pleas to next-less-severe alcohol charge.
How Long do Second and Third Offenses Count?
New York State law puts a limit on how long a prior offense can affect a driver’s sentencing. The law is more lenient with DWAI second offenses, as a driver will receive the increased penalty only if they have had a prior drunk driving conviction (DWI, Aggravated DWI, DWAI, etc.) in the last five years. For second and third DWI and Aggravated DWI charges, as well as third offense DWAI charges, the state may consider a driver’s past ten years’ driving records.
This timeframe, whether five or ten years begins tolling from the date of the last conviction to the date of a driver’s current charge. Drivers should be aware that it may have been more than five or ten years since they were last charged with an offense, but not yet five or ten years since they were actually convicted by the courts.
What can Lessen a Sentence?
Though there are statutory guidelines for these alcohol-related charges, judges still have some flexibility as to whether they issue the minimum or the harshest possible sentence. One of the first things a driver can do is think about how he or she wants to be presented to the court. Courts tend to look favorably on people who take steps to remedy substance abuse issues, show remorse, and otherwise use their charge as a learning experience. Taking proactive steps without a court order will often result in a lower sentence.
What Can Increase a Sentence?
Beyond just the prior charges under the statute, judges can take a number of other things into consideration at sentencing. Judges may consider whether or not a person has a criminal record, even one unrelated to alcohol. Subsequent charges can also play a role in a judge’s decision-making. If a judge sees that a driver got another drunk driving charge after the one that brings them to court that day, a judge may believe that a driver learned very little from the incident and issue a much harsher sentence.
The factors surrounding a driver’s arrest can also affect how serious a sentence a the driver may receive. Not only do other traffic offenses carry their own penalties, but they can make a judge less forgiving when it comes to sentencing for alcohol-related charges. For instance, a judge may be less lenient on a driver who caused damage to property and considerably harsher on a driver who caused someone else to be injured.
What are the Other Consequences?
Like any criminal charge, a drunk driving conviction can have a ripple effect on a driver’s life. Jail time can interfere with a driver’s ability to work, fines can make it difficult to pay bills, and suspended licenses can affect a person’s ability to get around. These potential consequences are more apparent than others. For instance, certain jobs require a driver to have a driver’s license and a clean record and fire an employee who gets an intoxicated driving charge. Having a criminal record can also impact someone’s ability to get a job, keep a job, and get a promotion.
Those charged with a drunk driving charge could also be required to attend some form of treatment or counseling. The driver’s car could even be required to install a system in their car that tests the driver’s blood alcohol level before the car can start.
When Should I Get an Attorney?
It is vital that a driver seek attorney representation immediately. In the time leading up to trial, there are a number of motions and a great deal of evidence gathering that an attorney can do on a DUI case to better prepare for trial and provide the attorney with the best possible tools for mounting a defense. Attorneys can also offer you guidance, even if you are looking to settle a case. They will be in the best possible position to negotiate for a deal and to judge whether you are better off taking the risk of going to trial.
If you have been arrested for a DWI charge in Nassau, Suffolk or Queens County, call Scott J. Limmer without delay
You can contact Scott by phone at 516-742-2300 to speak to him immediately. He is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, year-round and your initial consultation is free.
Nassau County Criminal Law Office
200 Old Country Road Suite 2 S Mineola, NY 11501 Telephone: 516-742-2300
Queens County Criminal Law Office
80-02 Kew Gardens Road Suite 300 Kew Gardens, NY 11415 Telephone: 718-742-6300