New York State DWI Laws

If you have been charged with a DWI in New York, our goal is to help you. With hundreds of satisfied clients, we take our jobs seriously. Take a moment today and contact us for a FREE case evaluation. In the meantime, feel free to review the following explanation of a DWI in New York.

Alcohol offenses are serious. A DWI in New York State can result in several issues for charged citizens. And unfortunately, some employers may even be forced to terminate employees who are convicted of drunk driving due to insurance requirements, but there are a number of ways to fight your pending DWI charges.

If you are convicted of a DWI charge in New York, you may face:

  • Jail Time
  • Loss of Driving Privileges or a Suspended Driver’s License
  • Substantial Fines
  • Higher Insurance Premiums
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device
  • Permanent Criminal Record

This list of consequences is daunting at best, but our team of dedicated New York DWI attorneys will fight on your behalf. Whether challenging the legality of your traffic stop, arrest, or breathalyzer results, or negotiating reduced charge to keep you out of jail, our team is ready to explore every option for the best outcome in your specific case. For a free DWI case analysis, contact our team right now. We’re always here, and ready to help you.

After you’ve been charged with driving, boating, or snowmobiling under the influence of alcohol or drugs, it’s important for you to retain legal representation as soon as possible.

The following are the New York State drug and alcohol related charges that can result in criminal and/or administrative penalties against the accused. Please click any link to learn more about specific DWI laws and penalties.

You can also view the complete list of penalties for alcohol and drug related charges byviewing the New York State DMV website.


DWI, or driving while intoxicated, sounds relatively straightforward. Any driver who operates a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of 0.08% or more will be charged with DWI.  As simple as the charge may seem, DWI and related charges are defined in a complicated area of the law. New York has some of the toughest DWI laws in the nation, and there are many charges an intoxicated or impaired driver may face beyond a “basic” DWI or DWAI (driving while ability impaired) offenses.  Penalties for these offenses vary, but the penalties for the “basic” DWI conviction include up to 1 year in jail; a maximum fine of $1,000 in addition to a mandatory New York State surcharge of $400; a 6-month license revocation; and the required installation/maintenance of an ignition interlock device for 1 year.

To prove a driver was intoxicated, the prosecution must provide the court with evidence. This evidence may include a breath test (breathalyzer) results revealing the driver’s BAC at the time he or she was stopped by the police. Police observations are also used as evidence against the driver. What the police officer saw, smelled, and heard at the scene of the stop will be used against the driver. Other common forms of evidence include urine or blood test results showing the driver’s BAC level. However, evidence such as breath tests or police observation is not always reliable. Breath tests can be inaccurate and prone to human error.

Breathalyzers do not take mitigating factors into account, such as the driver’s weight, age, gender, or ingestion of medication. Incorrect breathalyzer results occur, but the prosecution may try to use that reading against the driver anyway. Similar issues may surface with evidence provided through officer observations. The police are human beings, and are susceptible to tiredness, forgetfulness, and misconception, like everyone else. Moreover, in-field sobriety tests are not highly regulated and are totally open to the arresting officer’s interpretations. Though completely subjective, officer observations are commonly used as the prosecution’s evidence in a DWI case.

Evidence is just one potentially complicated part of your DWI case. DWI cases can be quite complex from the stop to trial or other final resolution. There are a multitude of legal defenses a driver may be able to assert when he or she faces a DWI charge. A skilled lawyer will be able to analyze your case and determine whether any of those legal defenses applies to your case. An experienced lawyer will also be able to handle hearings, plea bargaining, expert witnesses, and trial if necessary.


The science of DWI prosecution is extremely complicated. A common misconception exists amongst those who find themselves charged with a DWI: all attorneys are created equal. This is simply not true. Many attorneys from different practice areas often lack both the resources and the knowledge of drinking and driving laws to adequately defend their clients.

Perhaps the most troubling growing trend amongst attorneys is the belief that they can handle a DWI because they have done so before. Often these attorneys encourage their clients to plead guilty to whatever the District Attorney’s Office is willing to offer at the time.

This is simply not acceptable. It is important for your attorney to know the law relative to a DWI stop, recognize the standards for a proper arrest, and understand the gathering of competent evidence, all of which are imperative for adequate DWI representation.

The Stop

Attorneys who do not practice DWI defense may be unfamiliar with the grounds upon which a police may lawfully stop a vehicle, approach a parked vehicle, or confront an individual who just left his vehicle to enter a home or a store.

Additionally, in DWI Checkpoint cases, it is vital to discern what constitutes a proper checkpoint. DWI Defense firms generally have New York State Police Guidelines for the Operation of Sobriety Checkpoints readily available, and understand that these items often form the “listed criteria” that the New York Court of Appeals requires for a constitutional checkpoint stop.

By not challenging the constitutionality of a stop and merely pleading the client guilty to the underlying offense, is both ineffective lawyering and malpractice.

The Arrest

Before an officer can arrest a driver for DWI, they must have adequate probable cause. An officer forms probable cause based on his observations of the driver, oral admissions, performance of field sobriety tests, and the administration of a preliminary breath test (PBT). If an attorney does not know, for instance, the proper way officers are to conduct Standardized Field Sobriety Tests nor does he have a copy of the NHTSA manual indicating the requirements for test validation, that attorney cannot sufficiently evaluate the officer’s formation of probable cause. DWI defense firms not only have in their possession NHTSA manuals, but also generally have several attorneys on staff trained in Standardized Field Sobriety Test administration.

Chemical Tests in DWI cases

In order for an attorney to handle a DWI charge competently, they must comprehend the different chemical tests that could be used and how they are administered. DWI defense firms understand what physical ailments, medications, and other things that may make an individual appear that they are intoxicated when they are not.

Many attorneys who are unfamiliar with machine failures and the evidence collection process, may wrongfully assume the BAC value attributed to their clients is accurate, when it is in fact wrong. This often leads to instances where clients receive incorrect advice and plead guilty to improper charges. By contrast, DWI lawyers often are factory trained on breath and blood test machinery. They are aware of special calculations and calibrations that can make a significant difference in your case.

Collateral consequences

A client’s choice to plead guilty to a DWI, or even a DWAI, can result in many unfavorable consequences. Most insurance companies view a DWI and the reduced charge of DWAI similarly. Thus, simply pleading to the reduced charge could cost a client tens of thousands of dollars in increased insurance premium over the next few years. It is essential for an attorney to fully explain these consequences to a client, before entering any plea.


DWI Laws in New York may get a significant boost this Legislative Session. Syracuse.comreports that the New York State Senate passed “Vince’s Law” this week, which would strengthen and enhance penalties for multiple DWI convictions.

Vincent Russo, the namesake of “Vince’s Law,” was an 82-year-old man from Liverpool. In 2011, while on his way to Sunday Mass, Mr. Russo was killed by Michael Iannettoni, who smashed into his vehicle in a head-on collision. Police officers established that Mr. Iannettoni was drunk at the time of the accident, and his BAC registered at four times the legal limit. As it turns out, at that time, Mr. Iannettoni was waiting to be sentenced on a DWI conviction—the fifth DWI conviction on his record.

Mr. Iannettoni was charged and convicted of aggravated vehicular homicide. He received the maximum sentence for that conviction, 8 1/3 to 25 years in prison. Last August, Mr. Iannettoni passed away in prison while serving out his sentence.

The serial nature of Mr. Iannettoni’s DWI convictions, and the fact that he had such a high BAC, outraged New York State Senator John DeFrancisco, the sponsor of Vince’s Law. In a press release, Senator DeFrancisco noted that he believed that the death of Mr. Russo could have been avoided if Mr. Iannettoni had been behind bars for his first four DWI convictions.

To that end, the purpose of Senator DeFrancisco’s Vince’s Law Bill, or S4267-2013, is to extend the time period in which multiple DWI convictions can occur in order to be felony convictions, and to accordingly increase such penalties by one felony class. According to the text of the original bill, Senator DeFrancisco believes these measures are necessary due to the discretion that judges and the district attorney have under the current law when it comes to serial DWI convictions. Under the proposed legislation, drivers convicted of three or more DWI charges within a 25 year period would be convicted of a Class C felony, and punished by serving up to 15 years in prison. The current law in New York limits multiple DWI offenses eligible to become a felony charge to those committed within ten years.

Central New York’s Your News Now reports that Vince’s Law will now be put to the General Assembly for a vote. While it is uncertain whether the bill will pass in the General Assembly, drivers with multiple DWI convictions should be aware that there could be a change in New York’s DWI laws in the near future.


If you’re facing DWI charges, it is important to remember that a Syracuse DWI convictionnot only affects you legally and has a major impact on your driving privileges; it can also affect your present job and any future employment prospects. It may not seem entirely fair, but, employers often consider legalities, liabilities, and your reputation.

Any DWI conviction will result in the loss of your drivers license for a minimum of six months. If your current job requires a valid license, especially for driving purposes, your employer is not likely to retain you on their payroll unless they are sympathetic enough to move you to an available non-driving position, or are willing to hold your current position until your privileges are reinstated. In all likelihood, you will find yourself seeking new employment sans driving privileges, which is apt to narrow your prospects down just a bit.

The above legalities aside, the majority of employers these days conduct background checks before hiring any applicant. Even if your criminal background is fairly squeaky clean, a DWI conviction could send a red flag up to a potential employer. They have to weigh the possibility of another such occurrence, how this might affect your job attendance and performance, and how your record and reputation might present a liability or reflect badly on the company. Because of this, many employers hesitate to hire those with the mildest of criminal histories, let alone someone with a DWI in their past. The time since your conviction and conduct since then often factor into the decision. Repeat offenders, on the other hand, might find themselves facing numerous roadblocks when searching for a job.

While it does not often seem fair that one would be further penalized for their mistakes beyond those penalties imposed by the legal system, it is a hard fact of life that your criminal record is open to scrutiny for a number of reasons, including employment. In this way, the harsh consequences of these convictions can affect much more than just the individual who got behind the wheel while drunk–it can also affect families. There are countless examples of children whose lives are changed (not for the better) after a parent loses a job as the result of a DWI conviction. It is critical for community members to do everything they can to avoid these consequences.

DISCLAIMER: 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.