Investigative reports from a local news team in Buffalo, NY claim that judges in Erie County are too lenient on drunk drivers. These reports have painstakingly gone through years of arrest rates and conviction data seeking why judges in Erie County are so “lenient” on intoxicated drivers. According to these news reports, only 17% of the drivers charged with a misdemeanor DWI are actually convicted of that charge. Many drivers are instead of convicted of the lesser charge of DWAI (Driving While Ability Impaired).  Reporters and activists alike point to such statistics as a rallying cry for new, tougher DWI laws in a state that, arguably, already has the harshest DWI laws in the nation.

New York drivers with blood alcohol content (BAC) level of at least 0.08% can be charged with a DWI. The basic DWI charge is termed a“per se” DWI, and upon conviction of this charge, a driver can face strict penalties. These criminal penalties include: up to 1 year in jail; a maximum fine of $1,000 and a surcharge of $400; a 6-month license revocation; and required installation/maintenance of ignition interlock device for 1 year. A driver could face any or all of these penalties even for a first offense.  If a driver gains subsequent convictions penalties dramatically increase, in some cases leading to lengthy prison terms.

The lesser charge of DWAI is not a criminal charge, but could still lead to severe penalties.  In New York, impaired drivers can be charged with DWAI based on their actual level of impairment. For the purposes of this charge impairment is legally defined as having a BAC between 0.05% and 0.07%. When an impaired driver operates a motor vehicle, they could be charged and face penalties including: a maximum fine of $500; a 90-day driver’s license suspension; and up to 15 days in jail. These certainly are not small prices to pay for impaired driving.

While activists and reporters are claiming some New York judges are going too easy on drunk drivers, they fail to take into account the entire process leading to a conviction. First and foremost, New York laws are hard on impaired or intoxicated driving, and even first time offenders can face jail time.  Indeed, it is not surprising that New York politicians claim that New York’s DWI laws are the toughest in the nation.  The penalties for these charges are not “lenient,” even if a judge allows an offender’s charge to be lowered from DWI to DWAI.  For this reason, informed plea-bargaining can be an effective tool used by experienced DWI defense attorneys to help lower a driver’s charges.

If you or a loved one has been charged with a DWI or DWAI in New York, call the experienced DWI lawyers at Nave DWI Defense Attorneys. Our dedicated team of attorneys has years of legal practice and specialized training in how to handle DWI and related cases. We will explain all of your legal options to you, including possibly employing plea-bargaining tactics with the prosecution if it is appropriate in your case.  Our staff includes several former prosecutors, and we understand how prosecutors handle DWI cases.  We use our experience and knowledge to your advantage.  For more information on how Nave DWI Defense Attorneys’s New York DWI attorneys can serve you, contact us for a free case evaluation.

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.