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What penalties come with a first DWI charge in New York?

If you or someone you love will soon face criminal driving while intoxicated (DWI) charges in New York, you may wonder about the penalties. New York does not take kindly to impaired driving and has very strict penalties in place to deter potential offenders. Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, even prescribed medication, could put others on the road at risk. To make roads safer for everyone, New York engages in DWI enforcement efforts, ranging from targeted roadside stops to roadblocks and sobriety checkpoints. Sometimes innocent people end up facing DWI charges.

There are a number of extenuating circumstances that could result in a DWI charge for someone who was not drinking. Certain medical conditions, ranging from a rare disorder to undiagnosed and uncontrolled diabetes could cause an individual to look drunk or even fail a roadside breath test for alcohol. Sometimes, the law enforcement officer who administers the roadside sobriety test and breath test makes mistakes. Breath tests are not infallible, and issues with maintenance or calibration could result in a false positive. When that happens, a person could be unfairly charged with a DWI.

DWI penalties get steeper with more offenses or higher alcohol levels

New York defines intoxication as having a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher. For commercial drivers, the permissible BAC gets reduced to 0.04 percent. For those who are under the age of 21, a BAC of as little as 0.02 percent could result in DWI charges. Those who are over 21 and have a BAC of more than 0.18 percent could face steeper charges, called Aggravated Driving While Intoxicated (Aggravated DWI). That could change your charges into a felony.

First time offenders accused of a standard DWI will face a fine of between $500 and $1,000, as well as up to a year in jail and the loss of their driver's license for six months. Those who are commercial drivers could also face the loss of their commercial driver's license or job for a single DWI conviction or guilty plea. Minors accused of violating the zero tolerance law will face a fine of $125, as well as a fee of $100 to regain their license after it has been suspended for six months.

These penalties could change your life completely. Even if you avoid jail time, getting convicted of a crime could lead to the loss of your job. Some employers may offer lenience for a first offense, but they won't be as tolerant of the tardiness or absenteeism that often accompanies being reliant on other people or public transportation to get to and from work each day. Those who are facing DWI charges should carefully consider all of their options for defense before entering a plea and risking their future.

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Suffolk County Defenders Association New York State Defenders Association | Founded 1967 New York State Bar Association Suffolk County Bar Association | NY 1908

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