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An alcohol related driving offense in New York can be a violation, a misdemeanor or a felony

Driving While Intoxicated involves operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol level of .08 or higher. Driving while intoxicated may be either a misdemeanor or a felony. First time DWI’s are usually charged as misdemeanors. If you have a previous conviction for driving while intoxicated within the last 10 years, you may be charged with felony driving while intoxicated.

You may be charged with driving while intoxicated even when the police are not able to obtain a blood alcohol level. This is the case when a motorist refuses to take a breathalyzer test. In this situation, the police may charge you with driving while intoxicated based on other factors that establish intoxication such as blood shot eyes, slurred speech, and the smelled of an alcoholic beverage on the breath.

Recently in New York, a new charge of drunk driving was created called Aggravated Driving While Intoxicated (NYS VTL 1192.2A). This charge involves operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol level of .18 or higher.

Driving while intoxicated with a child 15 years or younger in the vehicle is now a felony charge under Leandras Law.
Driving While Ability Impaired by the consumption of Alcohol ( VTL 1192.1) is a lesser charge than driving while intoxicated and involves a blood alcohol level of .05 or greater, and less than .08.  Driving While Ability Impaired by the consumption of Alcohol is a violation, not a misdemeanor, unless there is a prior conviction for driving while impaired or driving while intoxicated within 5 years of the new charge, in which case you could be charged with a misdemeanor.

A motorist may also be charged with Driving While Ability Impaired Due To Drugs ( VTL 1192.4) as well as Driving While Ability Impaired Due To A Combination Of Drugs And Alcohol ( VTL 1194.A).

How a DWI affects your license

If you have been charged with Driving while intoxicated as a misdemeanor and you took the breath test, you will receive a 30 day license suspension. The 30 day suspension runs from the date of the arrest.  If you had a valid New York State driver\'s license at the time of the arrest you may be eligible for a hardship license.  A hardship license permits you to drive to and from your place of employment, to and from school, and/or to and from medical appointments. A hardship license will only permit you to drive during specified times of the day during the hardship license period which is for 30 days. When the 30 day period is almost over, you should receive a letter from DMV advising that you may go to New York DMV and apply for a new license. To receive a hardship license, the court needs to conduct a Hardship Hearing in order to determine whether a hardship license is warranted. Hardship hearings are conducted differently depending on the court. Most courts require a letter from your employer on business letterhead confirming that you are employed there. Some require the days and hours that you work. Some courts require a separate witness to testify at the hearing regarding your employment or to other facts. 
If you are convicted of an alcohol related offense, the court will impose additional suspensions and/ or revocations on your driver’s license. Furthermore, recent changes in the law now require those convicted of driving while intoxicated to install an ignition interlock device in any vehicle owned or operated by the motorist for at least 6 months. The interlock device requires the driver to blow into the device to confirm that he or she has not consumed alcohol.

If you have been charged with Driving While Intoxicated and it is alleged that you refused to take a breath test, also known as a refusal, the court will suspend your license at arraignment, pending a refusal hearing at DMV.  If you lose the refusal hearing or fail to show for the hearing, your license will be revoked for a minimum 6 months, or 1 year for those under the age of 21 and a civil penalty of at least $500.00.


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