Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) or Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is a very serious criminal offense. According to the New York Department of Motor Vehicles:
• Alcohol related car accidents account for one-third of all the car fatalities in the state
• Drivers with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.08% (over the legal limit) are four times more likely to cause a crash than a sober driver; a BAC of 0.16% makes a driver 25 times more likely to cause an accident
• Drunk drivers under the age of 21 are three times more likely to cause an accident than other drivers.
There are different types of offenses related to alcohol and drugs. They include:
• DWI – Driving While Intoxicated – the driver has a BAC of 0.08% or higher
• DWAI – Driving While Ability Impaired – the driver has a BAC under 0.08% but is still impaired enough to be an unsafe driver
• DWAI/Drugs – Driving While Ability Impaired by Drugs – the driver is impaired due to illegal or prescription drugs
• Chemical Test Refusal – the driver refuses a chemical test by the officer and is therefore subject to penalties such as a revoked license or a high fine
• Zero Tolerance Law – drivers under the age of 21 may not have a BAC higher than 0.02%.
Accordingly, the penalties for a DWI are very severe. Drivers are arrested and are no longer subject to traffic court but will be tried in criminal court. The penalties for a conviction range depending upon the number of offenses by the defendant. They are designed to be strict and harsh enough to discourage drivers from driving drunk ever again. A first DWI offense is a misdemeanor; a second offense is a felony and may include jail time; a third offense is a felony and will most likely include jail time. Every offense includes a mandatory license suspension and fines. If there are injuries or fatalities involved or if the driver receives more than one conviction in a short period of time, the punishment will be severe.