By: Passalacqua & Associates

What Are the Penalties For DWI in Syracuse?

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If you’re charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) or with any other offense related to alcohol and driving in or near the Syracuse area, you will need the personalized legal advice and the aggressive defense representation that a Syracuse DWI attorney can offer you.

What are your rights if you’re charged with driving while intoxicated in or near the Syracuse area? What are your legal options as a DWI defendant? What are the penalties for DWI convictions? And when should you contact a Syracuse DWI lawyer?

If you’ll keep reading this brief discussion of New York’s DWI laws and your rights, these questions will be answered, but if you currently have a DWI case pending – or if you’re charged with DWI in the future – you will also need to consult a DWI attorney as swiftly as possible.

What Penalties May Be Imposed for “Standard” DWI Convictions?

In this state, driving while intoxicated happens when anyone under the influence of alcohol or drugs drives a motor vehicle. You may be charged with “standard” DWI if you drive after drinking and your blood alcohol content (BAC) level measures at or above 0.08 percent.

For a first DWI conviction, the penalties may include a six-month license suspension, a fine, and the possibility of time in jail. A subsequent standard DWI conviction within ten years of the first may be penalized with a costly fine, several years in prison, and a lengthy license revocation.

The 0.08 percent BAC limit applies to most adult motorists who are 21 and older, but for younger drivers, the limit is 0.02 percent. The 0.02 percent legal limit also applies to drivers in New York who carry a commercial driver’s license (CDL).

How Does New York Define “Aggravated” DWI?

Driving with an excessively high BAC level – at or above 0.18 percent – can trigger a charge of “aggravated” driving while intoxicated. A first conviction for aggravated DWI may be penalized with a fine and/or time in jail and with a license revocation lasting at least one year.

A subsequent conviction for aggravated DWI within ten years of a previous conviction may be penalized with an expensive fine, an 18-month driver’s license revocation, and the possibility of several years in prison.

What is “DWAI” in New York? What Are the Penalties?

DWAI stands for “driving while ability impaired,” and there are two DWAI charges in this state:

Driving while ability impaired by alcohol is the charge when a motorist’s blood alcohol content level measures from 0.05 percent to 0.07 percent. DWAI by alcohol is an infraction in New York and not a criminal offense.

Driving while ability impaired by drugs is a criminal offense with severe penalties upon conviction.

A first conviction for DWAI by alcohol may be penalized with time in jail – no more than fifteen days – a fine, a mandatory “surcharge,” and an automatic license suspension for ninety days.

To win a conviction for DWAI, a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the driver was unable to drive safely even with a BAC level below the legal limit. If you are facing a DWAI charge, promptly schedule a legal consultation with a Syracuse DWI attorney.

When is DWI a Felony?

Most DWI charges are misdemeanors, but some circumstances can raise a driving while intoxicated charge to the felony level. For example, if a minor was with you when you were stopped by the police for suspicion of driving while intoxicated, you will face a felony charge.

If you are convicted of felony DWI, any subsequent driving while intoxicated charge within the next ten years will also be charged as a felony.

And whether the charge was a felony or a misdemeanor, any DWI conviction will entail extra-legal penalties that you will not face, for example, if you are offered a plea bargain and you plead guilty to DWAI.

What Are the Extra-Legal Consequences of a Conviction for DWI?

A conviction for driving while intoxicated increases your car insurance rates. If you are a professional driver, you may have to seek other employment, and that can be difficult with a recent DWI conviction.

If you are a professional in this state, a conviction for DWI may prompt disciplinary action by your professional licensing board. If you are not a U.S. citizen, a driving while intoxicated conviction – especially if it’s a felony conviction – may trigger a deportation proceeding.

Why is a Guilty Plea a Bad Idea in DWI Cases?

Don’t plead guilty to DWI, aggravated DWI, or DWAI, and do not try to represent yourself either. There will be too much at risk. Pleading guilty seems like the expedient way to handle these charges, but a DWI conviction will impact your life negatively for years into the future.

If you face a misdemeanor DWI charge, will you be offered a plea bargain? Many first-time DWI offenders are allowed to plead guilty to DWAI. A Syracuse DWI lawyer who negotiates plea deals on a regular basis will tell you if you should accept or reject a plea bargain offer.

Trials are risky. If you are innocent of DWI, as a general rule, you should not agree to any plea deal, and you should insist on your right to a jury trial. However, every case is different, so you should discuss all of your options with your lawyer and heed your lawyer’s advice.

What Else Should New York Drivers Know About DWI?

Even if the evidence against you is extensive and conclusive, and even if your conviction for driving while intoxicated is inevitable and unavoidable, a Syracuse DWI defense attorney can work on your behalf for reduced or alternative sentencing.

Of course, you’ll never have to face DWI-related legal trouble if you adhere to this fundamental advice which you’ve heard so many times – Don’t Drink and Drive. Call a taxicab, call Uber or Lyft, or call a relative or friend. Get a room for the night if you must. But do not drink and drive.

New York passed the first DWI law in the United States back in 1910. Since then, DWI laws in this and every other state have expanded and have become quite complicated. A DWI defendant must have legal counsel.

If you are charged with driving while intoxicated for any reason, you will need to contact a Syracuse DWI defense lawyer who will protect your legal rights, direct you through the justice process, and work to bring your DWI case to its best possible outcome.