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New York DWI Crimes: FAQ

Whether or not you have been arrested and already retained a DWI lawyer, you likely have significant questions about New York drunk driving laws, crimes and penalties. For example, is Driving While Intoxicated a misdemeanor or felony and is it the same thing as a DUI? What is Leandra’s Law and Aggravated DWI? Will I automatically lose my license or will it be either suspended or revoked if I am convicted of any of these offenses? Even if I am convicted, am I eligible for a conditional license? If I think I am going to exceed a .08 BAC, should I “blow” into a Breathalyzer? For that matter, what happens if I refuse to submit to a chemical test?

While not a substitute for consulting with the criminal attorneys and former DWI prosecutors at Saland Law, the following are some common FAQs and their respective answers:

Are DUI and DWI the Same Thing?

In New York State, drunk driving offenses are generally broken out into the misdemeanor and felony crimes of Driving While Intoxicated (“DWI”) and the violation of Driving While Ability Impaired (“DWAI”). These are all codified in Vehicle and Traffic Law 1192. In other states, analogous crimes may be categorized as Driving Under the Influence. Therefore, some people refer to these offenses as “DUI.”

What are the Most Common Offenses?

In New York, VTL 1192.2, VTL 1192.3 and VTL 1192.4 are the most common drunk driving crimes. VTL 1192.1 is a non-criminal violation often referred to DWAI or Driving While Ability Impaired.

What is the Legal Limit?

A blood alcohol content of .08 or greater violates the law. A BAC of .18 or greater enhances the potential penalties and limits potential lesser offers.

Can You Be Convicted of DUI or DWI Even if You Were not Driving a Vehicle?

Yes. The law requires mere operation. Driving is not required.

Will a Conviction Ever Come off My Criminal Record?

A misdemeanor or felony conviction is indelible. As such, it will remain on your permanent criminal record forever. However, pursuant to CPL 160.59, you may be eligible for conviction sealing after 10 years in certain circumstances.

How Long will a DUI Stay on My Driving Abstract?

The Department of Motor Vehicles maintains a record of conviction on your abstract for 10 years.

How Long Does a Conviction Effect My Insurance?

Insurance rates will be adversely impacted for as long as it remains on your driving record to various degrees, depending on the carrier.

What are the Penalties for DWI?

Because most of the offenses are misdemeanors, convictions are punishable by up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, up to three years probation, and a six month license revocation. You will also be required to install an ignition interlock device on any car you own or operate, and to attend certain alcohol-related programs. Given certain aggravating factors, such as having a child in car or a second conviction within ten years, you will face a felony and greater sanctions including up to four years in prison.

Is DWI a Misdemeanor or Felony?

The severity of the offense depends on whether there are any heightened elements. The most common include a prior conviction in the preceding ten years and whether there is a fifteen-year-old child or younger in the vehicle. The latter is codified as VTL 1192(2-a)(b).

Is Aggravated DWI a Felony?

Aggravated DWI, VTL 1192(2-a)(b), is a felony. Whether you refuse to “blow” or have north of a .08 BAC, if there is a child in the vehicle then your conduct is felonious.

Is an Ignition Interlock Mandatory Upon Conviction?


Can My License be Revoked by the DMV Even if I am Ultimately Acquitted?

Yes. If you are charged with VTL 1192.3 due to a refusal to submit to an Intoxilyzer or similar device, then you will be subject to a distinct and separate proceeding with the DMV called a Refusal Hearing. With a lesser standard of proof then the criminal case, if a Judicial Hearing Officer finds against you, then your license will be revoked irrespective of what happens with your parallel case.

There is no pre-determined defense to a drunk driving arrest but educating yourself on the law and retaining the right counsel is the first step to exoneration or limiting your legal exposure. When you need the best and strongest defense, contact the former Manhattan DWI prosecutors at Saland Law so experience, knowledge and advocacy can be your shield and guide.

Call the New York State criminal defense lawyers and former New York City prosecutors at 212.312.7129 or contact us online today.

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