New York State DWI

After you’ve been charged with driving, boating, or snowmobiling under the influence of alcohol or drugs, it’s important for you to retain legal representation as soon as possible.

Some of your friends or loved ones may advise you to represent yourself in court, or to retain an attorney who does not concentrate their practice in DWI. However, given the deceptively complex nature of the charges, and their heavy consequences, you could find yourself without a driver’s license or in jail without really understanding what you (or your lawyer) did (or didn’t do) to place you in that situation. You could accept a plea bargain that you shouldn’t accept under the circumstances. You could make a critical mistake that prevents you from getting your license back in a timely manner. New York State arrest and criminal records will generally remain for the rest of your life. Consequently, you could also spend the rest of your life learning the “hard way,” in hindsight, about the consequences of the potentially poor decisions you made without the benefit of competent DWI defense counsel. By that time, however, the damage will have already been done.

The following are the New York State drug and alcohol related charges that can result in criminal and/or administrative penalties against the accused:

  • DWI: Driving While Intoxicated; .08 BAC or higher, and/or other evidence of intoxication.
  • Aggravated DWI: .18 BAC or higher.
  • DWAI: Driving While Ability Impaired by Alcohol; .06 BAC to .07 BAC, and/or other evidence of impairment by alcohol.
  • DWAI: Drug: Driving While Ability Impaired by the Use of a Drug (i.e., that is not alcohol).
  • DWAI: Alcohol/Drugs: Driving While Ability Impaired by the Combined Influence of Drugs or Alcohol and Drugs.
  • Zero Tolerance Law: The motorist is under 21 years old and possesses a BAC of .02 to .07.
  • DWI Chemical Test Refusal: A motorist who refuses to submit to a chemical test (normally a test of breath, blood, or urine) will suffer a revocation of his or her driver’s license for at least one year, and will have to pay a civil penalty of at least $500 to the Department of Motor Vehicles.
  • BWI: Boating While Intoxicated; .08 or higher, and/or other evidence of intoxication.
  • BWAI: Boating While Ability Impaired by Alcohol; .06 BAC to .07 BAC, and/or other evidence of impairment by alcohol.
  • BWAI-Drug: Boating While Ability Impaired by the Use of a Drug (i.e., that is not alcohol).
  • BWI Chemical Test Refusal: A boater who refuses to submit to a chemical test (normally a test of breath or blood) will suffer a revocation of his or her boating privileges for at least six months, and will have to pay a civil penalty of at least $200.
  • SWI: Snowmobiling While Intoxicated; .08 or higher, and/or other evidence of intoxication.
  • SWAI: Snowmobiling While Ability Impaired by Alcohol; .06 BAC to .07 BAC, and/or other evidence of impairment by alcohol.
  • SWAI-Drug: Snowmobiling While Ability Impaired by the Use of a Drug (i.e., that is not alcohol).
  • SWI Chemical Test Refusal: A snowmobiler who refuses to submit to a chemical test (normally a test of breath, blood, or urine) will suffer a revocation of his or her snowmobiling privileges for at least six months, and will have to pay a civil penalty of at least $200.

Blood alcohol concentration is defined as the percentage of alcohol by weight contained in a person’s blood (measured either directly from a blood sample or indirectly from a breath sample). Blood and breath tests are different, and conflicting results can occur. Under some circumstances, one type of test will establish your innocence, while the other type of test will result in an accusation of intoxication.

Most motorists don’t realize, however, that New York State does NOT allow them to choose which test to take. The police choose the test that will be used against the accused. Either the motorist submits to the test that the police have chosen, or suffers the consequences of a “refusal” to submit to a chemical test.

In order to convict someone of DWI or DWAI in New York State, the prosecutor must prove that the motorist was intoxicated or impaired at the time when that person was operating the vehicle. However, in every DWI case a motorist’s BAC is determined at the time the blood or breath test is administered, which can be anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours after operation. This is significant because the human body must first absorb any alcohol in the stomach before any effects can be felt or manifested, and absorption of alcohol can take as long as one to several hours after the point of consumption. Consequently, a BAC test reading can reflect a substantially higher or lower result than the motorist’s actual BAC at the time of operation.

For example, suppose you drank two 12-ounce bottles of beer within 30 minutes and then were stopped in your car by police only a few minutes after finishing your last sip. Under those circumstances, your actual BAC at the time of driving would generally not yet reflect the two drinks (i.e., because you would probably not yet have absorbed the alcohol you consumed). However, a BAC test wouldn’t occur until after the police officer had performed his investigation, arrested you, transported you to the police station, and forced you to sit around for a period of time – all of which could take anywhere from about an hour to several hours to complete. As a result, you would be charged with DWI based on a BAC level that would, in all likelihood, be much higher at the time of testing than when you had been driving.