Alcohol-Related Traffic Violations

Some of the more serious traffic violations include those related to alcohol or drug use. Driving While Ability Impaired (DWAI) is the least serious alcohol-related moving violation. It is a violation, not a misdemeanor or felony. If it is your first conviction for DWAI, your license can be suspended for 90 days, and you may also receive a fine of up to $500 and/or up to 15 days in jail. If you get convicted again for DWAI within the next five years, the punishment will increase.

Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) can either be a misdemeanor or a felony. You can be charged with a felony DWI if it is your second DWI arrest and it is within 10 years of your first DWI or if you have a passenger in the vehicle under the age of 16. Other than that, your DWI will be charged as a misdemeanor.

If you are convicted of a misdemeanor DWI, your driver’s license can be suspended for 6 months. You can also be sentenced to up to 12 months in jail and/or fined up to $1,000. If you get another misdemeanor DWI within 10 years, the punishment will be more severe and you may even be charged with a felony. You may be able to plea bargain a charge of DWI down to a DWAI conviction instead. However, some district attorneys will not allow you to plea bargain a DWAI if your blood alcohol level is above a certain percentage.

If your driving is impaired due to the use of drugs (legal or illegal), you may be charged with Driving While Ability Impaired-Drugs (DWAI-D), either as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances. The punishment for DWAI-D is similar to that of DWI.

If your blood alcohol level is above .18%, you may be charged with Aggravated Driving While Intoxicated (ADWI). The punishment for ADWI is a fine of $1,000 – $2,500, jail time of up to one year and driver’s license suspension for at least one year.

New York State also has a zero-tolerance for underage drinking and driving. If you have a blood-alcohol level of 0.08% or higher, your driver’s license can be revoked for a minimum of one year.

Right to Refuse Alcohol or Drug Testing

If you are stopped or arrested for an alcohol-related crime or infraction, you have the right to refuse a field breath test or a chemical test, but it will cost you. If you refuse a field breath test, you can be charged with a traffic violation. If you refuse a chemical test, your driver’s license or New York State driving privileges can be revoked for one year.

Legal Editors: Gary Kaufman and Lauren Rosenthal, January 2018

Changes may occur in this area of law. The information provided is brought to you as a public service with the help and assistance of volunteer legal editors, and is intended to help you better understand the law in general. It is not intended to be legal advice regarding your particular problem or to substitute for the advice of a lawyer.

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