What Are Common Alcohol Related Traffic Offenses In New York?
Generally speaking, the common alcohol-related offenses are either a DWAI (Driving While Ability Impaired) or DWI (Driving While Intoxicated). A DWAI means that somebody took the chemical breath test and it came back with a BAC of 0.05 to 0.07, and a DWI means that the BAC was 0.08 or above.
A DWAI is a violation and not a crime. By statute, punishments or categories of offenses are defined by the amount of incarceration periods that can be imposed upon a conviction. It is important to point out that does not mean a given defendant is going to be sentenced to the time associated with an original charge or potentially any time – it is the conviction not an arrest which determines sentencing. As a violation, DWAI is akin to disorderly conduct and is punishable by no more than 15 days in county jail. DWI is a crime which, as a misdemeanor, is punishable by up to 364 days in the county jail. By comparison then, you see there is a big difference in scale between a crime and a non-crime. A person can go to jail in either case, but it just shows you the relative disparity of each alleged offense.
Insofar as common alcohol related offenses go there is a violation offense – DWAI (Driving While Ability Impaired) and a misdemeanor crime – DWI (Driving While Intoxicated). A conviction for a DWI charge is potentially up to one-year incarceration. A felony would be any crime punishable by a year or more and all the penalties go up from there. For example, if it is a first-time DWI felony, a Class E, then typically the prosecution is really looking for five years’ probation and maybe recommending some limited jail time if there were aggravating factors. Felony DWI charges usually mean they had an under-age passenger in their car or that they had one or more convictions for a DWI in the past. A felony DWI charge would carry a fine between $1000 to $5000.
There are essentially two kinds of DWI and they are characterized by their respective proofs. Basically, you can be arrested and charged with DWI 1) based on the police officer’s observations of intoxication (VTL 1192(3) common law) and 2) statutory DWI resulting from a chemical breath or blood test of 0.08% or greater (VTL 1192(2)). These two kinds of charges, however, would lead to the same goal by the prosecution – ultimately a single conviction for DWI.
There are also two levels of misdemeanor DWIs: a standard one in the BAC range of 0.08% to a 0.17% and aggravated DWI if the BAC is 0.18% or higher. A first offense misdemeanor charge, practically speaking, faces a minimum six-month revocation of their license, fines of $500 and a $460 surcharge, and a Conditional Discharge (CD) or possible three years’ probation, and some additional conditions and consequences.
If the BAC is 0.18% or higher it becomes an aggravated DWI. While it’s still a misdemeanor in this analysis, it carries some enhanced penalties and it works against an accused in the eyes of the court (doesn’t mean it’s game over – it’s just more challenging to get the result sought) since it is at least more than twice the legal limit. It carries enhanced penalties such as a minimum fine of $1000 to $2500, one-year license revocation (versus six months on a standard DWI), as well as other conditions and consequences. The court may be more inclined to agree with the prosecution’s demands for three years of probation when it’s an aggravated DWI because of its high BAC number and there is occasionally an accident to consider as well. Property damage is common; meaning that the accused struck a guardrail, fence, mailbox, or a parked or otherwise unattended vehicle. If they did strike another vehicle and with personal injuries, then what was already a serious matter becomes more serious.
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