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Understanding DWI Charges in New York

Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is a violation that you’ll want to avoid at all costs. Besides endangering yourself and others, most violations come with mandatory fines, from $125 to $10,000, possible jail or prison time, and license revocation.

Usually (but not always), a DWI occurs when your blood alcohol content (BAC) is at or above 0.08 percent. The New York Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) outlines the various types of alcohol and drug-related charges and what BAC levels or behaviors can trigger these violations:

  • Driving While Intoxicated (DWI): 
    • 0.08 percent BAC or higher or other evidence of intoxication.
    • For drivers of commercial motor vehicles:  0.04 percent BAC or other evidence of intoxication
  • Aggravated Driving While Intoxicated (Aggravated DWI): 0.18 percent BAC or higher
  • Driving While Ability Impaired by Alcohol (DWAI/Alcohol):  more than 0.05 percent BAC but less than 0.07 percent BAC, or other evidence of impairment
  • Driving While Ability Impaired by a Single Drug other than Alcohol (DWAI/Drug)
  • Driving While Ability Impaired by a Combined Influence of Drugs or Alcohol (DWAI/Combination)
  • Chemical Test Refusal:  A driver who refuses to take a chemical test (normally a test of breath, blood or urine)
  • Zero Tolerance Law: A driver who is less than 21 years of age and who drives with a BAC between 0.02 percent and 0.07 percent violates the Zero Tolerance Law

Repeat offenses within a 25-year period carry heavier fines and penalties. You can be charged with felonies as well as have your driver's license permanently revoked. To learn more about how repeated offenses can affect you, click here for this brochure from the New York DMV.

Whether you are charged with a misdemeanor or a felony, even if it’s your first offense, you will be required to purchase an ignition interlock device for your car. This device measures your BAC from your breath. If your BAC is over a predetermined limit, your car will fail to start. According to Leandra's Law, you’ll need to use this device for at least 12 months. This restriction will be added to your driver’s license.

If you’ve been charged with a DWI, this can be a life-changing experience that can be quite costly, depending on the severity of the charge. It’s important to contact a criminal defense attorney who is experienced with DWI charges.

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