The following article is written by Derek Andrews, Attorney in our Syracuse office.

In addition to the draconian regulations New York DMV enacted for anyone with prior impaired driving offenses who might be applying for a new driver’s license in New York, drivers who are re-applying for their licenses or waiting for them to be renewed should be aware of the negative unit system. This is true even if you’ve never been convicted of anything serious like a DWI, reckless driving, or vehicular assault.

DMV’s negative unit system is distinct from their point system which assigns points for various Vehicle and Traffic Law offenses like speeding or swerving. While enough points over a period of time could result in the loss of a license, the negative unit system could altogether prevent a driver from getting a new license returned to him or her.

Picture the following scenario

You lost your license because of a few too many speeding tickets last year, but you’ve now served the entire period of license revocation DMV imposed against you. You’ve filed your application with the DMV, paid the application fee, and you’re excited to get your full license back. DMV then sends you a letter stating that you can’t get your license back because they found that you have too many “negative units” in your driving history or that due to a combination of safety factors they will not be granting your license application. Your first questions becomes “WHAT?!” and “WHY?!” You haven’t even had a parking ticket, much less a speeding ticket, in the last year. “How could they do this?!”

Here’s why….

In a buried, difficult to read DMV regulation known as 15 NYCRR 136.4(a)(3), DMV states that it shall (meaning that they will and they must) deny any application for a new license if they find a combination of safety factors that result in 25 or more negative units. Again, these are different than “points”.

In another difficult to read DMV regulation, DMV defines various safety factors and assigns each a negative unit. See 15 NYCRR 136.6. That chart is at the end of this article. Safety factors include events like speeding, accidents, chemical test refusals, DWI, and driving on a suspended or revoked license. Based on our experiences thus far, negative units remain on a driver history for purposes of calculation for approximately 6-8 years.

Drivers looking to get their NYS license back should also be forewarned about the ability of the DMV to make a determination that the applicant is a “problem driver”. Applicants who receive this notification may be eligible for a license with a problem driver restriction. See 15 NYCRR 136.4(b)(1).

DMV regulations require that DMV notify you of their decision in writing and set out a reason for any denial of an application to be re-licensed. People who receive these written decisions may respond in writing and appeal the decisions based on a submission of compelling and extenuating circumstances. See 15 NYCRR 136.4(d) and (e).

In addition to fighting for each and every one of our clients who may be charged with a crime or an impaired driving offense, our team at Nave DWI Defense Attorneys has been diligently working with clients to ensure that we are adequately explaining and advising them of what New York law has in store for them and their licenses. This includes investigating detailed driver histories and making sure that clients get their licenses back when they’re supposed to. Please contact 1-866-792-7800 if you’re facing a situation like this or if you need any assistance on a criminal or traffic-related matter in New York.


Safety Factor Assigned Negative Units


15 NYCRR 136.6

Section 136.6 Weighing of safety factors.

Safety factor Assigned negative units
over one year to three years of application within one year of application
(1) for each reportable accident of record with a finding by the referee of gross negligence in the operation of a motor vehicle in a manner showing a reckless disregard for the life and property of others -5 -8
(2) for each reportable accident of record with conviction involvement or with a finding by the referee of a violation of the Vehicle and Traffic Law -3 -4
(3) for the first and second speeding conviction of record* -3 -4
(4) for the third and subsequent speeding conviction* -5 -8
(5) for reckless driving, speed contest or passing a stopped school bus -5 -8
(6) for each conviction of record for leaving the scene of a personal injury accident of record -8 -11
(7) for each alcohol–related offense of record as follows:
(i) conviction for violation of subdivision (1) of section 1192 of the Vehicle and Traffic Law:
first offense -5 -8
second offense -8 -11
third offense -11 -14
(ii) conviction for violation of subdivision (2), (2-a), (3), (4), or (4-a) of section 1192 of the Vehicle and Traffic Law:
first offense -8 -11
second or subsequent offense -11 -14
(iii) chemical test refusal -6 -11
(8) for each conviction of homicide, criminally negligent homicide, or assault arising out of the operation of a motor vehicle -11 -14
(9) (i) for each incident of driving during a period of alcohol– related license suspension or revocation -10 -12
(ii) for each other incident of driving during a period of license suspension or revocation -8 -10
(10) for each conviction or finding by the commissioner’s referee of a violation of section 392 of the Vehicle and Traffic Law -3 -4
(11) for each other conviction of record for a moving violation -2 -3


* For each speeding violation of 25 miles per hour or more over the posted speed limit, add one point.

We hope this helps with understanding the New York DMV’s negative unit system currently being used. If you have any questions, please feel to contact us anytime.

The exclusive purpose of this article is educational and it is not intended as either legal advice or a general solution to any specific legal problem. Corporate offices for Nave DWI Defense Attorneys are located at 432 N. Franklin Street, Suite 80, Syracuse, NY 13204; Telephone No.: 1-866-792-7800. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Attorney Advertising.