Felony DWI Under New York State Law

New York DWI law identifies multiple levels of offenses involving motor vehicles and alcohol or drugs. Most first-time offenses are classified as traffic infractions, which are generally subject to lesser penalties than criminal offenses. If an individual has one or more prior convictions during the previous ten years, however, New York may treat a subsequent offense as a felony. Penalties could include several years’ imprisonment, substantial fines, and a lengthy period of license suspension. A felony DWI conviction in New York may also require completion of a drug or alcohol addiction program, along with classes offered by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).

The New York DWI statute divides the offense into five offenses, based on the substance involved and the extent of impairment:
– Driving while ability impaired (DWAI): Operating a motor vehicle while impaired due to alcohol consumption. This could involve blood alcohol content (BAC) below the “legal limit” of 0.08 percent, but usually greater than 0.05 percent.
– Driving while intoxicated (DWI): Driving “while in an intoxicated condition,” or with BAC of 0.08 percent or more. For commercial vehicle drivers, the limit is 0.04 percent.
– Aggravated DWI: Driving with BAC of 0.18 percent or higher.
– Driving while ability impaired by drugs (DWAID)
– Driving while ability impaired by the combined influence of drugs or alcohol (DWAI-Combination)

Most offenses are classified as traffic infractions or misdemeanors. Certain offenses, however, are classified as felonies. A second conviction for DWI, aggravated DWI, DWAID, or DWAI-Combination within a period of ten years is an E felony. This is punishable by up to four years in jail, a fine of $1,000 to $5,000, and driver’s license suspension for a minimum of one year. For a second aggravated DWI conviction, the minimum period of license suspension is eighteen months.

A third or subsequent conviction for DWI, aggravated DWI, DWAID, or DWAI-Combination within ten years is a D felony in New York. The maximum jail sentence for this level of felony is seven years, and the fine can range from $2,000 to $10,000. The mandatory minimum license suspension period is the same as for E felony offenses, with aggravated DWI having an eighteen-month suspension and everything else having one year.

Multiple convictions within a period of twenty-five years can result in longer periods of license suspension. Three or four convictions within that time, with at least one being a serious offense, results in permanent suspension, unless the individual can demonstrate “unusual, extenuating and compelling circumstances.” Five or more convictions, regardless of seriousness or time frame, also results in permanent suspension.

For any felony DWI offense, state law requires installation of an ignition interlock device once an individual has reinstated their driver’s license. The minimum period is twelve months, but the statute authorizes courts to reduce this to six months in some cases.

Some defendants may be able to avoid a lengthy jail sentence through “shock probation,” which involves sixty days in jail followed by several years of probation. Probation and conditional release also often require completion of a program offered by the state’s Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services (OASAS), as well as victim impact panels offered by MADD.

If you have been charged with alleged DWI, DWAID, or another traffic infraction or criminal offense, the experienced team at the Law Office of Mark A. Siesel is available to discuss the charges with you, and help you understand your legal rights and options. Please contact us today online or toll free at 914-224-3086 for a free consultation with a DWI attorney.