In New York, impaired driving offenses generally fall into one of two categories:
These offenses are similar but defined differently and carry different penalties.
New York's impaired driving laws are more complicated than most states. Below we explained how New York defines "driving while ability impaired" and what is considered a first offense.
There are three types of DWAI offenses. It's unlawful for a person to drive a vehicle while their ability is impaired by the:
For purposes of New York's DWAI law, "ability impaired" means impairment, to "any extent," of the person's physical and mental abilities, which he or she is expected to possess to operate a vehicle as a "reasonable and prudent" driver.
The question of whether a DWAI is a first offense doesn't have a single answer.
An alcohol-related DWAI is considered to be a first offense if the driver has no impaired driving convictions that occurred within the past five years.
For a drug- or combination DWAI, the violation is generally considered to be a first offense if the driver has no impaired driving convictions within the past 10 years.
Below, we explained how New York defines "driving while intoxicated" and what qualifies as a first DWI offense.
A motorist commits a DWI offense by operating a vehicle:
New York's DWI law defines an "intoxicated condition" as impairment to the extent that the defendant is unable to employ the physical and mental abilities that he or she is expected to possess to operate a vehicle as a "reasonable and prudent" driver.
Generally, a DWI is considered a first offense if the driver has no prior convictions within the past 10 years.
Jail and fines. An alcohol-DWAI conviction carries a maximum sentence of 15 days in jail and/or a fine of $300 to $500.
License suspension. The court will impose a 90-day driver's license suspension for a first Alcohol-DWAI conviction. A defendant who participates in a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program can usually apply for a conditional license during the term of the suspension.
Jail and fines. The maximum jail sentence for first a DWI, drug-DWAI, and combination-DWAI is one year. In addition to or instead of a jail sentence, the court can impose a fine of $500 to $1,000. (Motorists with a BAC of .18% or more can face the more serious charge of aggravated DWI.)
License revocation. The defendant's license will be revoked for six months as the result of a first DWI, drug-DWAI, or combination-DWAI conviction. Defendants who participate in a rehabilitation program are generally eligible for a conditional license.
Ignition interlock device. A defendant who's convicted of DWI or DWI per se must complete a term of probation or conditional discharge. As a condition of probation, the defendant must install and maintain an ignition interlock device (IID) in any vehicle that he or she owns or operates. Depending on the circumstances, the defendant will have to use the IID for a minimum of six months or one year.
License suspension and revocation. Under New York's implied consent law, a driver is required to take a chemical test if an officer has reasonable grounds to believe he or she has committed a DWAI or DWI.
At the arraignment (the first court date), the court will suspend the license of any driver who had a BAC of .08% or more while the criminal prosecution is pending. The court will suspend the license of a driver who refused a chemical test pending the outcome of a Department of Motor Vehicles ("DMV") hearing. If the refusal is confirmed at the hearing, the DMV will revoke the motorist's license for one year.
Eligible offenders can obtain a "conditional license" or "hardship privilege," which allows driving in limited situations during the suspension or revocation period.
Civil penalty. A motorist whose license is revoked for refusing to submit to a chemical test must pay a $500 civil penalty.
New York's impaired driving laws are among the most complicated in the nation. If you've been arrested for driving while intoxicated, you should seek the advice of a qualified DWI lawyer. An experienced attorney can review your case and help you decide on the best course of action.