Drunk driving, more formally referred to as “driving while impaired” (DWI) is a serious matter in New York. Ordinarily, a first offense DWI conviction carries an administrative license suspension of at least six months – sometimes even a full year. Fines and fees, court costs, increased insurance premiums, and the mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device on all vehicles to which the DWI defendant has access also go along with the conviction. A first offense DWI will not ordinarily result in any jail time, however.
Blood Alcohol Content is an Important Determining Factor
Law enforcement officers will charge you with DWI if your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is:
- 0.08 percent or higher and you are 21 years old, or older
- 0.04 percent or higher, if you are driving a commercial motor vehicle
- 0.02 percent or higher, if you are younger than 21 years old
A person can be charged with aggravated DWI if his or her BAC is 0.18 percent or higher. While still usually charged as a misdemeanor, the penalties for aggravated DWI are stiffer than those for the “standard” DWI charge. Fines and fees are also larger. If you are charged with a second aggravated DWI, that can result in a felony conviction.
Under “Leandra’s Law,” First Offense DWI in NY Can Sometimes Be a Felony
In 2009, following the death of 11-year-old Leandra Rosado, who was killed when she rode in a vehicle driven by the intoxicated mother of one of her friends, the New York Legislature made important changes to the state’s Vehicle and Traffic Law. The Child Passenger Protection Act, more commonly referred to as “Leandra’s Law,” strengthened penalties that are imposed on drunk or impaired drivers. Of particular importance is the fact that, under Leandra’s Law, a first offense DWI can be considered a felony if:
- At the time of the infraction, anyone in the vehicle was under the age of 15, and
- The driver had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08, or higher.
The penalties for a felonious conviction are, of course, significantly harsher than those for a standard, or even an aggravated, DWI.
Less Serious Offense: DWAI
While still a serious charge, driving while ability impaired (DWAI) is the least severe alcohol or drug-related driving charge that can be charged in New York. A driver is usually charged with DWAI where there was evidence of impairment, but where the BAC level was less than 0.08 percent.
Prosecutors May Sometimes Accept a DWAI Plea Instead of a More Serious Charge
Stories circulate as to how a driver in another state was successful in “pleading down” a DWI charge to a reckless driving offense involving alcohol which, while serious, is much less so than a DWI. Attorneys in those states sometimes refer to such a negotiated pleas as “a wet reckless.” New York’s Vehicle and Traffic Law, however, restricts the District Attorney’s ability to plea bargain in DWI cases. Depending upon the circumstances – each case is different – it may be possible to plea the DWI charge down to a DWAI, but a wet reckless is not generally allowed.
Much is at Stake With a DWI or DWAI Charge
Whether the charge is DWI or DWAI, the matter is serious. If you’ve been charged, your choices may be somewhat limited, but you need skilled legal assistance to understand those options, and weigh the consequences of any decision that you make. The attorneys at E. Stewart Jones Hacker Murphy have the judgment and experience to assist you in difficult times. We are one of the most highly respected law firms in upstate New York and the Capital District. We have been representing clients for more than a hundred years; our law practice has stood the test of time.
Make the right call. Call us now at (518) 274-5820 or complete our online form. The E. Stewart Jones Hacker Murphy law firm has an attorney available to assist clients 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year – even on holidays.