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When do drunk driving charges become felony charges in New York?

In the past two weeks, we discussed the methods police officers use to determine if a person is driving drunk. Once officers make the determination that they feel they have just cause to charge a person with drunk driving, that person is charged. There are several different types of drunk driving charges a person might face, some of which are felony charges. Our New York readers might be interested in learning about various charges for non-commercial drivers.

What is driving while ability impaired by alcohol?

A person can be charged with driving while ability impaired by alcohol for a blood-alcohol content of .05 and less than .07. A first conviction can mean up to 15 days in jail, a 90-day license suspension and a fine of $300 to $500. A second conviction in a 5-year span and a third conviction in a 10-year span have increased penalties. A third DWAI in a 10-year span is considered a misdemeanor.

What is driving while intoxicated?

Driving while intoxicated is reserved for people with a BAC of .08 or more. A first conviction can mean up to a year in jail, a fine of $500 to $1,000, and a revocation of at least six months. A second conviction in a 10-year span is a class E felony, while a third conviction in 10 years is a class D felony. Both of those charges have harsher penalties than the first conviction. Some people might be charged with aggravated driving while intoxicated, which has harsher penalties than DWIs.

What are violations of the Zero Tolerance Law?

Charges under the Zero Tolerance Law are reserved for drivers who aren't yet 21 years old who are driving with a .02 to .07 BAC. A first conviction of this law results in a six-month suspension and civil penalties and fees. A second conviction gets your license revoked for a year or until you turn 21. Civil penalties and fees also occur.

In some instances, signs of ability impairment or intoxication are substituted for a BAC. Knowing what is accepted and what isn't, as well as other caveats of these laws might help you to decide how to proceed with your defense.

Source: New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, "Penalties for alcohol or drug-related violations" Nov. 07, 2014

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