Updated March 17, 2016
Administrative and criminal penalties for first-time DWI (driving while intoxicated) offenders in New York might vary depending on the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and level of impairment of the driver. For instance, there are increased penalties for a first-offense DWI where the driver has a BAC of .18% or higher, called an “aggravated DWI." But there are numerous other circumstances that might affect the penalties imposed for a first-offense DWI such as the age of the driver, whether anyone was injured, whether a minor was present in the car, and whether the person was driving a commercial vehicle.
The State of New York has multiple offense classifications for impaired drivers. These include:
A first-offense DWI, sometimes called a DUI (driving under the influence), where the driver has a BAC of .08% or more (up to.18%) carries an administrative license suspension of at least six months (one year for drivers with a BAC of .18% or more or for drivers under 21 years old). First-offenders who violate New York’s implied consent law by refusing to submit to chemical testing will typically have their license suspended for one year. License reinstatement requires payment of reinstatement fees, installation of an ignition interlock device (for at least six months during probation or conditional discharge), and if applicable, completion of an “Impaired Driver Program,” (formerly called the “Drinking Driver Program”).
How Much Will it Cost?
To get an idea of how much a first offense DUI will cost you, see our article on the cost of a DUI.
For drivers charged with a first-offense DWI/DUI in New York, there’s no minimum jail time required, but it’s possible to receive a jail sentence of up to one year. And all DWI/DUI convictions (including first offenses) require the use of an ignition interlock device. Fines for a first-time offense range from $500 to $1,000 (or between $1,000 and $2,500 with a BAC of .18% or more).
Depending on the circumstances, a DWI/DUI conviction can stay on your record (and affect the criminal and administrative penalties if you get a DWI in the future) for four, five, ten, or 25 years.
A DWAI is a lesser included offense of a DWI. The difference between the offenses is based on your level of impairment. You can be convicted of a DWAI if your ability to drive as a “reasonable and prudent” driver has been impaired to “any extent.” But to be convicted of a DWI based on your level of impairment (as opposed to your BAC), you must have been impaired to a “substantial extent.”
The penalties for a DWAI (involving only alcohol) are less severe than those for a DWI. Like a DWI, there’s no minimum jail time for a DWAI conviction. However, the maximum jail sentence for a DWAI is only 15 days (for a DWI it’s one year). The criminal fines for a DWAI range from $300 to $500, and the minimum license suspension is 90 days.
(For more information about drug DWAIs see our article, New York's Drugged Driving Law.)
To learn more about New York DWI/DUI law, contact a criminal defense attorney in your area. There are even attorneys that focus on DWI law in particular. A knowledgeable DWI attorney can discuss the particular facts of your case with you and let you know what your options are.