Guest Post By: Christopher McCann
DWI, or driving while intoxicated, is a offense that is taken very seriously by law
enforcement in New York. While many people feel that they are “OK to drive” after a couple
of beers or a glass of wine, even a small amount of alcohol can lead to impairment. A driver
who has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% is four times more likely to be involved
in an accident than a driver who has not been drinking. And a driver with a BAC of .16% – or
twice the legal limit – is twenty-five times more likely to be involved in an accident. Clearly,
an impaired driver poses a hazard to himself or herself, and everyone else who shares the road,
including other drivers and pedestrians.
Millions of New Yorkers depend on cars everyday to get to and from work, school, home and
everywhere in between. The sheer number of automobiles in New York, including private
cars, buses, taxis and commercial vehicles, elevates the risk and likelihood of traffic accidents
occurring. Many of those will be alcohol-related. But New York is also home to the biggest city
in America, where every minute of the day thousands of pedestrians are negotiating their way
from Point A to Point B in the middle of some of the most treacherous automobile traffic in the
world. The potential harm that could come from drunk-driving in that setting is self-evident.
In fact, the statistics bear this last point out. One-third of all fatalities in New York are the result
of alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents involving drivers and pedestrians. Young drivers, due
in part to their inexperience behind the wheel, are especially impacted by drunk-driving: they
are three times more likely to be involved in a fatal alcohol-related accident than older drivers
(above the age of 21). That is why New York makes it a crime for anyone under the age of 21 to
drive with a BAC of .02% or above.
New York has several offenses related to drinking and driving . Driving while intoxicated, or DWI, can be
charged when a driver is caught driving with a BAC of .08% or above. A first DWI conviction
is a misdemeanor and can result in a fine of up to $1,000, a year in jail, and a six-month driver’s
license suspension. A second DWI conviction is a felony and carries with it a maximum fine
of $5,000, up to four years in jail, and a one-year driver’s license suspension. A third DWI is
also a felony and could lead to a fine of up to $10,000, seven years in jail, and a minimum one-
year suspension of a driver’s license. Moreover, the penalties are more severe for drivers who
are convicted of multiple DWIs within five years of their first drunk-driving conviction. And
the fees here do not include legal costs and other fines that could be separately imposed by the
But because alcohol can lead to some level of impairment even in small amounts, New York has
defined another crime – DWAI, or driving while ability impaired (by alcohol) – which makes
driving with a BAC between .05 and .07 an offense with significant penalties.
Drivers impaired by drugs are also subject to DWI and DWAI in New York.
If a driver is pulled over and refuses to take a breath, blood or urine test to determine their BAC,
New York may revoke that driver’s license and impose a fine of $350.
For more information about New York drunk-driving laws, contact an experienced New York
DUI lawyer with expertise in this area of the law. A New York DUI lawyer can answer your
questions about these and other alcohol-related motor vehicle laws in New York.
Christopher McCann is a practicing DUI lawyer at the Law Offices of Christopher J. McCann
and generally writes on topics related to criminal defense and DUIs. McCann was voted as
a “Rising Star Attorney” in 2010 by Southern California SuperLawyers Magazine.