Queens County Bar Association
Martindale Hubbell - Distinguished 2023

How is a DWI Charge Defined in New York?

In New York, there is no such thing as DUI which is Driving Under the Influence. The basic charges are either driving while intoxicated, a DWI, which is the more serious of the drunk driving charges, and driving while ability is impaired, DWAI (VTL 1192.1) which is a less serious traffic infraction. Those are the two basic charges for driving, and what most people would call a DUI as they exist in New York. DWI can be one of at least three different things. The simplest is if you have a blood alcohol content of more than 0.08% which, by definition, is driving while intoxicated. (VTL 1192.2) In addition to that, we have the common law version of DWI which is just based on law enforcement’s observations that indicate and prove that you were in no condition to drive and you are intoxicated. The last is driving while ability impaired by drugs (VTL 1192.4).

DWI does not require any particular blood or breath alcohol test and you may be convicted without taking the test at all. For instance, the officer observed you weaving in and out of traffic erratically when he stopped you, and you showed signs of instability, you had bloodshot eyes, strong alcohol breath and various other observations. And just based upon that, under VTL 1192.3 of the Vehicle and Traffic law, you can be found guilty of driving while intoxicated.

What Are The Top Misconceptions About Being Arrested For A DWI?

The biggest misconception that I find is many people have no idea how serious a charge this is. They tend to think it is as just a somewhat more serious traffic charge, but it is not, it is a serious crime, and is treated as such. Many people wind up going to jail in addition to all the other penalties that they received. Unfortunately, a lot of people do not treat it as seriously as they should.

How Public Is The Knowledge OF A DWI Arrest And Prosecution In New York?

It would be similar to any other criminal case. The person is arrested rather than receiving a ticket, and they are brought before a judge. They may have bail put on them, and they may not. If bail is set and the person cannot post bail, they may actually stay in jail until the case is terminated. In many instances, the arrest would be made public through media coverage. Even without media coverage, your situation will be apparent in your community. For instance, you are not going to have a driver’s license and then when you are finally allowed to drive, your car is going to have an interlock device that anybody who rides with you in that car will notice. So it is something that is certainly pretty public. In some smaller communities, these cases tend to make the local newspapers. That would not be the case in a larger city where these things are more common. But again, it is just as public as any other crime and in some ways, more so.

What Are The Common Mistakes People Make In DWI Cases?

The most common mistake people make relates to whether or not they take the breath test. They will be requested to take this test when brought in to the precinct. For most people, they are better off taking the breathalyzer test for the simple reason that if you do not take the test, whether you win or lose the case, you are going to lose your driver’s license for a period of six months. In many if not most cases, the attorney might have been able to work something out where you would get back at least a conditional license very quickly. For most people, they are better off taking the breathalyzer test.

There are instances where most attorneys, including myself, would recommend not taking it and that is a situation where you know the reading is going to be super sky high, or if there has been an accident involving injuries or fatalities, or if you have had a previous conviction for a DWI. Unfortunately, you are not going to have an attorney with you at the time you are asked to take the test, and you do not have time to consult with an attorney at that very moment. For most situations, it is much better to take the test; there are some situations where it is not better to take the breathalyzer test.

The other thing is to not make any statements to law enforcement. The most common mistake is if you offer answers to all their questions. When he asks you, “Were you driving?” and you say, “Yes”, you have now made out that part of the case for him. Obviously in a situation where the officer stops you on the road, that does not come into play. In most situations, be as cooperative as possible with the officer and again, it is most beneficial usually to go along and take whatever breath and coordination tests that are offered.

Why Is It Not Advisable To Plead Guilty To DWI Charges In New York?

There is nothing wrong with it, if you really do not care what happens to you either now or in the future. But the real fact is that in most cases, having an experienced attorney can play a very significant role in what ultimately happens with your case. First of all, there are many cases where the officer has not proceeded properly in what are sometimes obscure ways that a layperson would never recognize. That can result in the case being thrown out even if you were driving while intoxicated. There is nothing wrong or improper about that, because it is the district attorney’s job to prove his case and there are many cases where that can be legally prevented.

Even where the District Attorney has a fool-proof case, most of the time the attorney, if they are good at what they do and work hard at it, can wind up getting you a much better disposition of your charges. This will usually or often reduce it to a less serious charge that does not give you a criminal record, and that may result in not losing your license or losing it for a much shorter period of time. Even in the worst case scenarios, the attorney is going to be able to minimize the consequences of the case. If you care at all what happens to you, do not just go to court and plead guilty without speaking with an experienced DWI attorney representing you. It would just be super foolish.

For more information on DWI Charges In New York, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (718) 793-5700 today.

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